Monday, March 23, 2015

"Voices of Faith"

"Voices of Faith"

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-10, 39-40; 12:1-3

In one of the memorable scenes from the movie, Dead Poets Society, Robin Williams who plays English Professor John Keating, encourages his students to listen to the voices of the past. In a room filled with awards and black and white pictures of students from days past, he tells his current students, “If you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? . . . carpe diem . . . hear it? . . . carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

Listening to our Scripture today from the book of Hebrews is like hearing voices of faith from the past, godly and wise voices, calling us to “seize the day, to run the race, to make the most of every opportunity, to walk through the open doors, to make our lives extraordinary, to leave an imprint, a lasting legacy of faith in our community and world.” Hebrews 11 is the record of a number of men and women who have walked this path that we walk. They make up this “great cloud of witnesses,” (12:1) they left their imprint on their world, they seized their day, they lived extraordinary lives because they followed our extraordinary God, by faith.

The word “therefore,” that begins chapter 12 ties together what has previously been said about these men and women of faith in chapter 11 and now calls us to listen and to learn from these voices of faith from the past. What do we hear these voices of faith from the past say to us today? If we will draw near and listen closely today, we can hear them say, . . .

“We’ve Got Your Back” (12:1a)
Our text says it like this. “We are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” (v.1). Imagine what it must feel like to play in Tiger Stadium “surrounded” by 100,000 fans cheering you on! What is Death Valley to opponents is the sound of victory to the home team. And what an inspiration to know that former players, some of your heroes are in the stands and they are rooting for you. Their not armchair or Monday morning quarterbacks, they have played the game, they know what’s it’s like, they know the struggles. You are surrounded by fearless supporters and friends encouraging you on every down.

That’s the picture we have in Hebrews 12:1. It’s the picture of being surrounded by fellow people of faith who have walked where we walk, who have struggled as we struggle, who have questioned God at times as we do, who have taken side trips off the path as we do, and yet have followed after the Lord the best way that they knew how, as we do. In effect, they are cheering us on, they have our backs! We do not stand or travel on this journey of faith alone. “We are surrounded [past and present] by such a great cloud of witnesses.” I’m encouraged to know that others have walked this path that we walk. We are on the plus side of several thousand years of church history, millions of saints of God have walked where we walk. We hear their voices in Scripture and in history.

At Hebron Baptist Church we have 178 years of people of faith in our church and community who have stood where we stand, who have walked where we walk. That should greatly encourage us but also humble us. We cannot take credit for all of what God has done. We stand on the shoulders of faithful men and women who served selflessly, who gave sacrificially, who shared “the faith” of the Gospel. We are not the first ones to travel this path. You and I stand in a great chain of grace. The Christian life is like a relay race, and we are but one leg of the race. And what is important is how we run the race and how we hand off the baton of faith to the next generation. Others have come before us, they have passed along the faith of the Gospel and that is why we are here today.

What an amazing privilege we have, but also responsibility to pass along the faith to the next generation. The work is not yet done. However, we are not alone on this journey, we are surrounded, and all heaven is watching, and that great cloud of witnesses is urging us to run our race, to pass along the faith, to make our lives extraordinary for God. In our day, let’s take our place among the faithful “cloud of witnesses.”

For His Glory, By His Grace

Pastor Joe
I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3

"Growing the Church God's Way"

Growing the Church God’s Way
Ephesians 4:11-16

Excerpts from a sermon preached on March 15, 2015 at Hebron Baptist Church by Pastor Joe Alain.

Yesterday, we concluded our Upward Basketball and Cheerleading season with an awards presentation and lunch. When I think about our Upward sports ministry, I’m reminded that it takes a small army to bring this ministry all together, including our Upward director, coaches and assistants, referees, concession workers, set-up and take-down staff, half-time devotional leaders, greeters, etc. What is amazing to me concerning our Upward ministry is that it just goes to show that we can do great “Kingdom” things when we work together. In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul shows how the church with all its glorious diversity, functions in a healthy way. And the truth is, when you do what God wants you to do, the church is healthy and growing. So how does God grow his church?

First, God provides spiritual leadership to His church, that is what verse 11 is all about. The church’s spiritual leaders provide direction for the church, they navigate the church in the right direction, under Christ. Spiritual leaders “equip” or “prepare” believers for “works of service” (v.12). The word to “equip” or to “prepare” is the biblical word which means “to put right.” It was used of a surgeon setting a broken bone, of the disciples “mending their nets” (Matt. 4:21), and of the work of restoring a believer who has fallen into sin (Gal. 6:1).

God’s word is a “healing” word (Ps. 107:20a), and God’s word is “truth” (Jn. 17:17), it “puts things right.” It corrects broken and false beliefs that bring only harm and not healing. God’s word shows us a holy vision of what our world could be, of what our lives could be, a world of beauty, of purity, of justice, of righteousness. God’s word taught and preached has the power to set things right. It always points us to the ideal and it is “always” a redemptive word, even when the word is painful.  

Sometimes the word is like a fire (Jer. 23:29). The word scorches and burns the chaff of our lives, and lays bare our heart, but it does this so that new growth can spring up. Sometimes the word is like a hammer (Jer. 23:29). The word crushes the cherished idols of our heart, sometimes a painful process, yet the word that crushes the idols of the heart makes clear the foundation of our heart for God alone to be honored and worshiped. Sometimes the word is like a sword (Heb. 4:12). It cuts deep but it never cuts indiscriminately, to damage, to hurt, but it penetrates with the precision of a skilled physician cutting out a cancerous tumor.

The word, the Gospel, the truth, sets things right. But, the truth must be applied. We can have a glorious vision of what could be in our lives, but if we don’t follow the Great Physician’s instructions after the benediction, it’s not going to be very helpful when we leave and our vision of greater things will begin to fade by the time we hit the church foyer. So what are these “works of service” that we are being prepared for? The word “service” (v.12) is the word “diakonia” which has the idea of practical service. Here is something vitally important to our Christian lives. Following Jesus is not theoretical, it’s practical, it makes a difference in your everyday life. Christianity is not merely a belief system, it’s a transformed way of life that impacts individuals, families, communities, and nations. Christian beliefs “applied” have the power to transform every aspect of your life and of our world. So the Christian prays and follows Jesus so that God’s kingdom on earth will be as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10).
Each day, if we are listening and looking, God is pointing out opportunities for practical works of service. Think of “works of service” as any and every opportunity you have to live out the Christian faith so that the kingdom is being built up. D. L. Moody once said, “There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.” And yet it’s the little things, the practical “works of service” that make the most difference for the building up of the kingdom of God!

Here are a few questions to help you identify what “works of service” God may want you to do. Ask, “Where does God have me in my life?” “What has he blessed me with?” “What can I do on a practical level to honor God?” “What is he telling me to do?” “How has he gifted me?” “What is right in front of me that I might be missing?” When you ask those types of questions, you will know what “works of service” God wants you to do. When the church is equipped and serving, positive church health and growth will occur (vv.12b-16). What will that health and growth look like? We will become more unified, more like Christ, and more loving. And this is how God grows the church.  

For His Glory, by His Grace!

Pastor Joe
I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3

Friday, March 6, 2015

"What a Day!"

What an incredible blessing it was to worship the Lord on our first day of worship as the family of HBC in our new worship center. We had upwards of 700 people including many guests, some former members and long-time friends and many new friends as well. “Surely the Lord has done great things” (Joel 2:21).

It seemed surreal standing on the platform this past Sunday. It wasn’t that long ago that we stood on a grass field marked out with chalk showing us where the building would be located. And it wasn’t that long ago when we witnessed the pouring of the cement in the very spot where I stood to preach. Below the pulpit area there is a Gideons Bible encased in about 4 feet of cement. You could say that I’m literally standing on the promises of God!

I mentioned Sunday that in light of our incredible blessings and God’s great faithfulness, what should be our appropriate response to God? The only appropriate response is that of worship! With grateful hearts filled with praise, . . .
            1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. 3 For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. 6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our maker; 7 For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.  
Psalm 95

I want to thank all of our folks who made it possible for us to be in our new facility. We couldn’t do it without you! Our building is still a work in progress and there will be a few things needed here and there, so please be prayerful and patient. I also want to thank the many people who served in one of the “First Impressions” teams. I think you will agree, we have an incredible need in these areas. As a church we need to seize the opportunity that we have right now, to walk through this “open door” that God has provided, and to “make the most of every opportunity” that is presented to us (Eph. 5:16). As a church fellowship we will “seize the day” when each of us understands “what the Lord’s will is” (5:17) and when we fully yield to God’s control over our lives (5:18). Church, let’s ask “What does Christ our Lord want? What is His will?” And then, let’s listen and obey. If you would like to serve in in one our “First Impressions” teams, please call Rhonda Alain or drop by the Welcome Center this Sunday.

Don’t forget that our Dedication Sunday will be on Sunday, March 22nd. We will have many special guests with us on this day and it will be a wonderful celebration of God’s goodness and faithfulness. The service will be followed by a dinner and time of fellowship. You will not want to miss it. Speaking of guests, why not invite someone to worship this Sunday. “Faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). God’s Word has the power to change our lives and the lives of our family and friends. However, we have to expose people to God’s life-changing Word before the Word can do its work. So let’s fill God’s house for His glory because He’s worthy of worship, and so that people can hear the life-giving Word of God!

Looking forward to what God is going to do through His Church, the body of Christ.

For His Glory!
Pastor Joe
I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3