An Open Letter to Christian Men in the Pinebelt
How many of you would say, “I love the Lord!”? I bet most all of you. I bet you would say that you want to please Him and that you want your life to count for Him. I also bet that most men that I know have never submitted themselves to a process of being trained and equipped to do the very thing that Jesus commissioned as most important - MAKE DISCIPLES!
I want to change that! I am asking you to join me on Tuesday Mornings at 6:00 am for a time of training with a group of men!
Take a second and watch this special message from Dr. Scott Hanberry:
NEXT STEPS ON THE JOURNEY:
Step #1 - Go to this link - TRAINING #1 and watch the video. Get a pen and paper and follow the instructions.
Step #2 - Commit to be at the Activity Center next Tuesday morning (April 2nd) at 6:00 am for breakfast and a time of training!
We will have all eternity to enjoy those we bring to christ… but we have a limited window of time and opportunity here on earth to bring them there!
Sowing for a Harvest,
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In just a few short weeks, we will begin the advent season... the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Our church will provide resources for families to maximize their focus upon the coming of Christ. I'll be sharing more information soon regarding these resources! For now, I hope you'll take a few minutes and read the article below by Ryan Shelton.
Seven Reasons to Celebrate Advent
Article by Ryan Shelton
Worship Pastor, Evanston, Illinois
I grew up in one of the branches of the church that did not celebrate Advent. Before the leftover turkey disappeared from the refrigerator, we were in full-blown Christmastide through December 25.
I was in my twenties before I was introduced to the tradition of Advent, and it frankly did not have much appeal right away. What was the value of four weeks of longing and expectation? It seems so contradictory to the prevailing atmosphere of festive, cheery glow in the shopping malls.
But I have grown to love Advent. And though it is not a mandated observance in Scripture, there are profitable reasons to consider making Advent part of your holiday rhythm. Here are seven potential benefits of observing Advent.
1. Advent reminds us we are not the center of God’s plan.
Advent is an opportunity to refresh your perspective that God has a grand plan for history that is so much larger than just you and your kin. For all the emphasis on gift-giving and sentimentality that characterizes our cultural holiday, we can tend to focus on our small circles of friends. So in the midst of a season that might shrink our gaze, Advent reminds us to pan the camera back out to the larger scope of God’s purposes for history.
Before the foundation of the world, God wrote “the book of life of the Lamb who was slain” (Revelation 13:8), a story culminating in the marriage of the Lamb and his Bride (Revelation 19:7). What a marvel that we are spectacularly included in this grand plan, but we are not individually the main characters in this story.
The expectation of Advent points our gaze to a far grander story than our sentimental yuletide inclinations.
2. Advent reminds us of generations of saints longing for the Messiah.
Not long ago, it was a luxury to have two-day shipping for online purchases. Now you can have your purchase show up in just a matter of hours. Do modern people even have a category for longing, pining, and waiting?
Advent gives us an opportunity to imagine the long-awaited coming of the Messiah, who was promised thousands of years before his arrival in Bethlehem (John 8:56; Hebrews 11:13). Generations of saints had promises from God in Scripture, and types that heightened their yearning for the coming One.
As we imagine ourselves in this kind of expectation, we begin to see glimpses of how Jesus expected his disciples to see predictions for his ministry in the entire collection of Scriptures (Luke 24:27, 44), not simply a few isolated prophecies. With this kind of yearning, the pages of the Hebrew Bible rustle with Jesus from Genesis to Chronicles.
3. Advent connects us to centuries of church tradition.
Church tradition is not our final authority like Scripture, but we are not the first generation to seek to live faithfully to God’s word. We are naïve to blindly disregard a practice that has been fruitful for so many citizens of God’s Kingdom.
We should remember our leaders, and consider the outcome of their faith (Hebrews 13:7), and celebrating Advent is an opportunity to imitate the faith of many faithful leaders who have gone before us. We can avoid what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery” by letting the voices of seasoned saints offer wisdom into our context.
4. Advent brings slowness in the midst of a frantic season.
The Christmas holiday, especially in the West, seems to be on a vector towards insanity. Black Friday appears to have no desire to remain confined by a 24-hour window, even while shoppers have literally been reported to stampede retail stores. Students are busy studying for finals, parents are busy shopping for gifts, families are busy traveling to visit relatives — even social calendars can crowd uncomfortably during December.
Advent provides opportunity to slow the pace, or even comparatively grind it to a halt. Remember the deliberateness of God. He completed his promise “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4). Whether through daily readings, candle-lightings, or other Advent-themed traditions, we resolve to pause and reflect in a season that could otherwise drown out reflection — and be still.
5. Advent teaches us patience.
Patience is a fruit of God’s Spirit (Galatians 5:22). But though it is his work, we may seek out means whereby the Spirit of God can cultivate patience in our hearts.
As we observe Advent, God can grow patience in our hearts by demonstrating that God is patient, and not because he is slow (2 Peter 3:9). By remembering the longing for Christ’s first coming, we see God’s mercy. He did not rush into swift destruction of his enemies and triumph of his kingdom — glorious as that will be.
Every moment of God’s patience is an opportunity for repentance for those who would otherwise be destroyed in his final coming (Romans 2:4). During Advent we behold the patience of Jesus, and by beholding him we are transformed more into his likeness by God’s Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).
6. Advent demonstrates the rarer jewel of Christian discontentment.
Puritan author Jeremiah Burroughs wrote of The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment. And indeed this rare jewel is worth cultivating, especially in view of a mass conspiracy of advertisements designed solely to rob it from you. But not all discontentment ought to be shunned.
Where Christian contentment is rare in the vast sea of discontented people, distinctly Christian discontentment may be rarer. How else can the result of the firstfruits of the Spirit be groaning inwardly (Romans 8:23)? What are we to make of the souls of martyrs under the altar of God crying out, “How long, O Lord?” (Revelation 6:10)? We do not have to look far to find reasons to grow in righteous discontentment with the sin-broken world around us, and lift up holy cries of lament.
Advent uniquely models this in the Christian calendar, as we remember similar cries for the first coming of Christ, and join their refrain for the second coming.
7. Advent fortifies confidence in the promises of God.
Finally, the best application of all of a season of heightened, purposeful remembrance and expectation directs us toward the glorious Second Advent of King Jesus.
As we reflect on God’s faithfulness to his promises past, we are reassured in the promises we yet await. Jesus said he is coming soon (Revelation 22:12), and though our concept of soon may seem to have a different calibration than our Lord’s, the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith by tracing the exactitude of God’s faithfulness to the saints long ago. Confidence in the second coming of Christ inspires missions (Matthew 24:14), enables Christian fellowship and mutual encouragement (Hebrews 10:25), and equips us for joyful suffering (Hebrews 10:34).
So if you are like me, and did not grow up with the tradition of Advent in your family or church, consider the benefits to your Christian walk this season by joining many in the Christian faith who have found great benefit in purposefully preparing during Advent for the great celebration of Christmas. Let us join the voices of generations of saints past and present in the refrain, O come, O come, Emmanuel.
Faith comes by hearing...hearing by
the Word of God!
The Word of God is critical for faith development
and for healthy spiritual growth. Many people struggle to understand the Word, yet this is God’s revealed Word to us and His desire is for us to read it so we can know Him and walk with Him by faith.
On October 19-20, Hardy Street Baptist Church will host the Bible Literacy Conference as we learn together about Chronological Bible Discipleship.
You will not want to miss this event!
This may well be the most significant/important weekend in the history of our church! I want to personally invite believers from all over South Mississippi to join us!
The conference registration is $20 which includes conference materials
(including a One-year Chronological Bible), a light lunch and more.
Check out this week's Monday Motivation newsletter HERE.
Third Annual Pine Belt Community Prayer Gathering This Sunday evening, believers from all over the Pine Belt will gather for our 3rd Annual Community Prayer Gathering. I urge you to join us! It will be a powerful night of unity, encouragement, and awakening! I also want to challenge you with these three thoughts.
(1) Prepare: I want to call on you to prepare! Take time to inventory your own life! I’d love for you to attend the event, but more than that, I want you to engage! Don’t be a spectator on the sideline. Ask God to prepare your heart now! Here is a guide to help you begin to consider how best to experience God in personal awakening!
(2) Pray: Seek God throughout this weekend! Invest time praying! Here are a few tips.
(3) Participate: Join us on Sunday evening (September 9 at 6:00 p.m.) for the Community Prayer Gathering as congregations from across the Pine Belt (across denominational, racial, socio-economic, & generational lines) gather to seek the Lord together in a time of prayer and praise!
Hardy Street Baptist Church
1508 Hardy Street Hattiesburg, MS
Other helpful resources:
Inspiration comes from a variety of places... but a stories of tenacity, overcoming odds, and determination seem to touch the soul! When a person faces their fears, establishes a positive mindset and hits high marks of achievement, it inspires and nourishes the human spirit.
I recently finished reading an incredible book that captures just that spirit! Unfinished Business by Levi and Terry Gurno (order here) is book for anyone with fears to overcome and dreams to reawaken.
I am excited to interview my friend, Terry Gurno (terrygurno.com) next week for an upcoming leadership podcast! His story is so motivational! I look forward to sharing this episode with you in our new "Digital Leadership Lounge".
I strongly recommend that you get the book "Unfinished Business"!
Here are a few scenes from the 2016 Coeur d'Alene IronMan competition (in which Terry was the final finisher...with only minutes to spare)
When was the last time you saw something that was so wonderful, so amazing, that it took your breath away? A sunrise or sunset... A mountain peak or an ocean shoreline. Perhaps it was the birth of a baby or maybe a virtuoso musician playing with such skill, precision, and passion that you were moved to tears! When was the last time you were in complete and total awe of something?
In Luke 5, Jesus read the thoughts of the people around Him and He also performed a miracle of healing... the response of the people? Verse 26 tells us "And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
As we move into the Fall season of life (school, sports, holidays and festivities) it is easy to be overworked and underwhelmed... We get so caught up in the race that we lose sight of anything glorious or "awe" inspiring. I want to help you recapture a sense of awe. I urge you to pause and reflect at the magnificence of Jesus Christ!
I am challenging our church family and all of my friends to join me on a 14 day journey toward living in awe of Jesus.
Phil Waldrep (Phil Waldrep Ministries) has written a wonderful 14 day devotional guide to help us do just that! Its called 14 Days of Purpose: a Challenge to live in awe of Jesus. You can download it below. Beginning on Wednesday, August 1st, begin this journey of seeking Jesus with me! I look forward to hearing how He fills you with awe and wonder!
Christ-follower, husband, dad, friend & the Senior Pastor of Hardy Street Baptist Church.