Our hearts are heavy and broken. Earlier this week, our family had to say goodbye to our beloved Boxer, Hudson.
Hudson was almost nine, and like many large breed dogs, he had a myriad of health issues. We had a very difficult decision to make based upon his quality of life and his future decline. It was merciful. It was right... But WOW, was it hard.
At 80+ pounds, he thought he was a lap dog... We named him after famed missionary, Hudson Taylor. He was the best good boy we could have ever dreamed of. He loved us well. People don't deserve dogs... especially Boxers.
Some time ago, I discovered an incredible resource of high quality photos from the Biblical world! Its called bibleplaces.com. I have used this resource in teaching and preaching both in my church and in the classroom at William Carey University.
Bible Places" is a wonderful website that offers thousands of photos at a low price with generous usage permissions. These hi-resolution photo collections come in a Powerpoint format with helpful captions.
Now, we are excited to announce that you can receive exclusive discounts on these collections as a part of our "Shalom Israel" Bible Pilgrimages.
We encourage you to visit our exclusive site for discounts HERE
Our dear friend, Al Ainsworth shared eloquent and powerful words about the impact of the resurrection in his moving foreword to "Raised to Walk".
As I write these words as a foreword to Raised to Life, I stare over my computer screen at the woods behind my house. Amidst a fog rising from the ground, the trees stand tall, straight, and bare. The effects of their barrenness lie all around them, the dead leaves of a former season. The grass closer to my house on which many of these leaves lay earlier in the season is clear of them now, but the grass also lies dormant. As an avid amateur landscaper, I imagine my passion for improving my view would dwindle to nothing if I didn’t maintain hope that in the spring, my landscape would come to life again.
Sometime in March—or maybe even during an unexpected warm spell in February—a handful of daylilies that my daughter encouraged me to plant a number of years ago will pop through the dead leaves, signaling the coming of spring. Some years, I have business that takes me from my home in northwest Mississippi to somewhere along Interstate 22 toward Tupelo, where numerous redbuds and dogwoods bloom alongside the road not long after the appearance of my daylilies. My cherry tree and azaleas will follow with profuse blooms that, along with the rest of creation, fairly scream that Jesus is alive.
While I can appreciate the other seasons of the year for what they are, spring’s vivid reminder of the resurrection makes it far and away my favorite time of year. My life as a believer has included many seasons of great joy and heart-wrenching sadness, but the story I tell again and again is that of my rebirth, my spiritual beginning, my new life in Christ.
I was nearing the end of my freshman year of college at the University of Southern Mississippi, trying to find my place and failing miserably. Though I could taut numerous academic achievements at my small country high school, my place was on the baseball team. I was not so accomplished in that arena, but it was where I had a sense of belonging, where I felt a part of something bigger than myself. I had not yet found a transcendent cause to replace being a part of the baseball team after almost a year of college, so I went home often to watch my former teammates play.
During the week, I picked up the details of the games over the phone with my friend Mike, the team’s center fielder. On the Tuesday of my school’s first district game against the team we had battled for the championship the prior year, my phone rang, and I expected Mike to be on the other end to tell me about the game that we had discussed at length the night before. Instead, it was a former high school classmate, who informed me that Mike had fallen rounding first base during the game and—as it turned out—suffered a massive heart attack and died before he reached the hospital. Mike was sixteen years old.
My own mortality had never become so clear. After mourning with my former teammates at the funeral home a night or two later, I found myself at a friend’s house, peppering his mother with questions about life and death and life after death. On my drive home that night, I gave up my shell of a life that I had discovered I had no control over, really, and decided to follow Jesus.
My life as a Christ-follower didn’t bloom right away, but it did come to life. As I learned how to have a daily walk with the Lord and how to show up on a regular basis to hear the Word preached and discussed and lived out, I learned how to follow Jesus. It hasn’t always been easy, and, my goodness, there has been plenty of heartache along the way, but there has always been hope. A man who can resurrect Himself from the grave, just as He said He would, will surely do as he claimed and come again to make all things new.
At some point while reading through Raised to Walk in anticipation of Easter Sunday, my daylilies will explode through the ground and what once seemed dead will be raised to life again. That’s the story of my life, and it’s the story of every true Christ-follower. Not improved lives. Not our best lives now. New lives. Join me, will you, on a journey that celebrates not only what Jesus did in overcoming death, hell, and the grave, but also in how He continues to do His resurrection work today and the hope that He gives us for His return.
Cummings, Ray; Hanberry, Scott. Raised to Walk: A 41-Day Easter Journey (41 Days Book 2) (pp. 11-13). 41series.com. Kindle Edition.
Join us on a journey this Advent Season as we focus our hearts on the presence of Christ!
The Bible contains a number of significant 40-day journeys: 40 days and nights of rain in Noah's day, 40 days for the Israelite spies in the Promised Land, 40 days of taunting from Goliath before David arrived on the scene, 40 days in the wilderness with Jesus being tempted, 40 days between Jesus' resurrection and ascension.
But what about Day 41? Day 41 is a day of new beginnings, of a new life. And what better example of new beginnings than the arrival of Jesus on the earth. God's presence with us.
Christmas Presence: A 41-Day Advent Journey encourages Christ-followers to align their priorities during the Christmas season to save their highest level of celebration for Jesus, Immanuel, God with us, an opportunity for a new beginning.
Join me and my life-long friend, Dr. Ray Cummings for an extended anticipation of God's Christmas presence!
Available in paperback and on Kindle
ORDER YOUR COPIES HERE!
Stephanie and I will travel to Nashville this weekend for the Southern Baptist Convention. It is always a sweet time of reunion with “extended family” who serve faithfully in places around the globe. We will spend time with pastor and missionary friends that we don’t often have the
luxury of time with.
Inevitably, you’ll hear news reports flow from the media about fussing, feuding, and fighting. There will be accusations about wokeness and liberalism, about power grabs and politics… about doctrinal disputes and dogma.
Any and every disagreement will be painted as evidence of a fractured and broken foundation that point to the sure ruination of the convention.
BUT NOT SO FAST… Don’t believe all the hype.
It’s almost as if the media world is waiting and watching for a fight as if they were at turn three of a Nascar track hoping to see a crash. Why? Because conflict breeds curiosity and bickering is good for business. Those are the stories that sell.
What you probably won’t hear out of this convention is report of the powerful prayer gatherings and the highlights of how God has used faithful pastors and churches to meet mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical needs through the pandemic.
At the SBC Annual meeting, we will hear first-hand reports of how orphan care ministries have touched lives globally. We will learn of how faithful Southern Baptists are providing care by feeding the hungry and providing clean water, building community infrastructure & improving quality of life. Baptists are building and staffing hospitals and orphanages, planting churches, training and equipping people, and loving the lost!
Most significantly... You probably won't hear widespread report of how Southern Baptists are sharing the Greatest News ever spoken - Jesus Saves!
Why won't that be reported? Because that is a message that the enemy doesn't want getting out! He'd rather that we are known by what we are against, than what we stand for.
I wish so desperately that the world would see the unity and love that believers have as they focus on God's glorious mission. My hope is that we will display to the world the beauty and majesty and love of Jesus.
My experience with SBC life has been incredible! I know Southern Baptists to be deeply devoted to the Bible and passionately committed to missions. It has been my faith family that has walked with me in times of grief, pain, and struggle. It is my Baptist brothers and sisters who have encouraged me and they are the ones who celebrated with me in times of joy!
It was the ministry of South 28th Avenue Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi where I experienced the love of God through faithful and dedicated Sunday School teachers and pastors.
I attended children’s camps and youth retreats there. It was formative. It was there that I sensed God. There, a faithful Southern Baptist Pastor, Gibbie McMillan, shared the Gospel with me. Another Godly Pastor, Ryan Whitley, invested in me through personal discipleship and helped shape my thinking and my ministry!
It was an education through the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary that prepared me to preach, to teach, to disciple, to pastor, to nuture, to counsel, and a myriad of other skills that are necessary to shepherd broken people.
So many people that I encounter have stories tied to the impact of a Southern Baptist Church. Friends and neighbors tell how the church of their childhood made a lasting impression, or how their church was a lifeline after an event such as Hurricane Katrina, the death of a loved one, or some other crisis event.
I thank God for Southern Baptists!I love our SBC! I am a Southern Baptist by birth, by conviction, and by choice. Rank and file Baptists are largely unconcerned about convention politics and differences. They are quietly and faithfully loving their neighbors, leading their families, and following the Lord. They are showing up in the wake of hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes. They are putting on Vacation Bible Schools, teaching English and a second language, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and holding out HOPE!
So Scott, are you saying that we should not bother with contending for truth? ABSOLUTELY NOT! I am not saying that at all...
YES, doctrine matters! And that may very well be one of the most encouraging facets of the SBC... We are a people who have faithfully made the Word of God central. It is our Baptist Faith & Message that clearly defines the distinctive boundaries of what matters! Yet, sadly I fear, that our message will be drowned out by our methods.
So, be warned… you’ll likely hear reports of all manner of division, disdain, and disorder reported from the convention...but don't be too hasty in a rush to judgment.
Oh, there will be disagreement and some things will be stirred up... In fact, I am praying that it will be stirred up…but not by the messengers - rather by the hand of our Sovereign God! You see, I am praying that we experience an awakening in Nashville next week - a spiritual awakening. And I am praying that it begins in my own repentant heart.
Shalom! What a great word! It literally means "PEACE"... Shalom is a Hebrew word meaning peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility and can be used idiomatically to mean both hello and goodbye.
When Stephanie and I returned from the 2020 Shalom Bible Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we immediately purposed in our hearts to make this an annual pilgrimage and to take as many people to that special land as possible in the remaining years of our ministry.
I want to once again thank you to H.S.B.C. for the incredible privilege the Church afforded Stephanie and me for our 2020 Bible pilgrimage to Israel. It truly was life-changing. I will never read Scripture the same. It has fundamentally altered my perspective… in the best possible way!
While on the trip, we were invited to join the teaching team for the Shalom Israel Biblical Pilgrimages… We have also been given the opportunity to share this trip with our church family. Space is limited, so if you have interest, reserve your spot asap!
I hope that you’ll consider joining us or sharing this opportunity with others who might have interest. I never realized what a valuable discipleship component this trip would be, and we would like to share it with members of our congregation. More information HERE
Take a moment to look at (or download) the information brochure HERE!
Pastor Scott Hanberry
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,
Check out these helpful resources to keep you moving forward in our Chronoligical Study!
Bible Background Videos - HERE
FREE Helpful Subscriptions -Subscribe HERE(this includes daily devotionals that will be emailed to you and helpful videos that come to preview the week, review the week, and address difficult questions from each week's reading!)
Weekly Podcast - Subscribe HERE
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.
Christ-follower, husband, dad, friend & the Senior Pastor of Hardy Street Baptist Church.