Heroes of the Faith

Hebrews 11 is commonly referred to as the roll call of faith and is the most familiar chapter in the book. The first verse of the chapter is seen by many as a great definition for saving faith. Although the verse gives us great information on what saving faith looks like, a definition of faith could never be contained in one verse. Saving faith is a gift from God and the key to our salvation. To get to the heart of what the author of Hebrews is seeking to communicate in this chapter, we need to look at the chapter in the context of the whole letter. He is writing to a group of Hebrew Christians that have been facing some escalating persecution. And in the future, the persecution would only increase. Some would even lose their lives for the sake of Christ. It seems that Hebrew Christians to whom the author had addressed this letter where slipping back into the Judaism. They had faced some difficulty and reverted to their former religious traditions. The writer of Hebrews is urging them to focus on Christ because He is all they need to not only save them from their sins, but to sustain them in the face of persecution. Christ is everything! In chapter 11, the author focused on the kind of faith that is required to stand firm in the face of persecution. It is a type of faith that has Christ and His work as a foundation for future promises. It is a type of faith that has spiritual eyes to see the unseen spiritual realm of God’s power that is working for His glory and the good of the church. Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 ESV) After giving this definition, the writer gives a long list of Old Testament examples that have displayed this type of faith in God. For while they did not fully understand what God would do in the future, they trusted him and His promises and lived faithful lives. Beginning Sunday, November 5, we will look at Hebrews 11 in the morning sermon time. Join us for this series and allow the words of Scripture to strengthen your faith. If you are unable to attend or live in another area, you can catch the sermon through video each week at: https://vimeo.com/anthonylangley

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Solar Eclipse

I remember the going outside with some solar eclipse viewers that we made at school when I was a kid to watch the sun as it was partially covered by the moon. How small I felt thinking about the sun and the moon and the universe. Those were days when what we learned about the universe was learned from books and adults who were in the know. Occasionally you could find some information on a TV show, but we only got three channels and didn’t have a DVR! These days, you can google and find out when all the solar eclipses were for the last 200 years. And you can even watch a real time animation on the internet. Things have certainly changed. One thing I have noticed is that with all the social media coverage of the event, people seem more excited than ever for this rare and mysterious event. On Monday, most in the US will be able to see the moon partially cover the sun and in some places, the sun will completely vanish from sight. It will be dark in the middle of the day!

I’ve seen many posts lately about the solar eclipse, and some are speculating that this may have something to do with the final days and the return of Jesus. It would do us well to remember that Jesus said in Matthew 24: 36 that no one knows the hour of His return. While Jesus could return at any moment, it seems unlikely that His second coming will coincide with this event for several reasons. First, we have had eclipses before and Jesus has not returned. The only difference between this eclipse and many others that we have experienced in the US is that it will be able to be seen as a total eclipse from the Atlantic to the Pacific coasts. Second, it is taking place in the western hemisphere over the United States. Now, I love my country as much as the next guy, but the US is not the center of biblical prophecy and never has been. The biblical prophecy centers around the Middle East and the land of Israel. If the eclipse was going to be part of the events surrounding the second coming, I feel sure it would be one that took place in the East. By the way, a total solar eclipse over Israel doesn’t appear to take place in the next 150 years. Third, the people that are publishing articles about the solar eclipse and the end times, or coming of Christ, are using this event to generate web traffic. This is pure speculation and click-bait.

Could Jesus return Monday? YES! But he could also return tonight. We should be ready! If you are worried about the future or the coming of Christ and don’t feel ready to meet the God of the Universe, I would l love to talk to you and tell you how you can encounter Him. He bore the cross and took the wrath so that you could have life eternal. BE READY. But don’t “buy in” to the hype surrounding the solar eclipse. Just sit back and watch the beauty of our Father’s creation as He shows it’s magnificence.

Knowing God

I recently reread J. I. Packer’s famous work, Knowing God. As I read, I was reminded why that book is so well respected in Christian writings. Knowing God is more than just acquiring knowledge about God; it is about taking the knowledge you learned and applying it to your relationship and walk with God.

Packer says that knowing God naturally starts with knowing about God and the only place that we can learn about God is in his Word. We must be students of God’s Word, growing in it daily. In His Word, God has revealed His character and His ways. As we learn about Him, we also come to understand how He commands us to interact with Him and the world in which He has created us to live. We also need to learn to reevaluate ourselves according to His standards as sinful creatures in a fallen world. We must come to recognize that we are not strong and self-sufficient, but we are weak and sinful. And we are on a path to Hell without some intervention by God on our behalf.

Knowing God is about developing a personal relationship with God in which we surrender ourselves to God because He surrendered His life for us. Knowing God means we receive His mercy, actually plead for it. And we find peace and rest in Jesus work of the cross in which he forgives us for our sin.

Knowing God also requires that we become a disciple of Jesus Christ. It involves faith. I have always explained faith as not simply an assent to the Lord that we believe in Him and trust Him. It is also a commitment to Him through action. Faith is not just belief, although it is not less than belief. It is trust that actively rests in Christ and His finished work on the cross. It is trust that leads to obedience to the commands of Christ. Those that really trust Christ for salvation want to serve Him with all of their lives.

Knowing God finally involves a trust in the adequacy of God to meet all our needs and take care of us regardless of the circumstances or how things will turn out. Packer discussed the conflict that Paul presents in Romans chapter 7 that a believer has with sin in his life. Chapter 8 in Romans doesn’t take away the struggle with sin in this life. It only shows that God is with us and helps us to conquer temptation and struggle if we simply trust in Christ. We are more than conquers in Christ. Sometimes God takes us out of the circumstances that cause difficulty in our lives. But more often, God leaves us in the circumstances and goes through them with us. Regardless of which, we must trust God because we know Him. The climactic verse in Romans 8 is verses 28; God is working for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose!

If you are reading this and you do not know God or have not developed a relationship with God as is described in this blog. Send me a message. I would love to talk with you about how you can be saved. Or if you are a believer that has not cultivated your relationship with God, dive into His word with the goal of knowing Him, learning to know yourself, and understanding how you fit into the world around you! Only then will you develop a habit of knowing God!

Connect>1 Evangelism Campaign

Beginning this Sunday, First Baptist Lepanto will seek to mobilize the members of our Sunday School to reach out to the community with the love of Jesus and gospel of redemption.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with the campaign, it is a program developed by Oklahoma Baptists and many churches in Arkansas went through the campaign last fall. Our church was involved in some other activities so we did not participate at that time. The motivation to begin an evangelism campaign is related to loss of commission vision. The New Testament church was very aware that their goal was to make disciples, and while the social and discipleship elements were emphasized in the church, the early believers never lost sight of what God had called them to do … multiply themselves. In our churches today, we have become accustomed to the idea that growth equals Bible study and fellowship. Both of these are essential, but living on mission is what God really requires of us.

I ask you, what have you done in your spiritual life to reproduce yourself. Have you made a difference for the kingdom? I believe most Christians are wasting their lives on things that will not make an eternal impact. We all need to be about the mission of God to make disciples through evangelism. Lepanto is filled with unchurched people without the gospel. We must share the hope we have in Christ!

3151c-1-2The campaign is designed to mobilize church members to be involved in evangelism. The connection of every believer to others with the gospel is greater than the work of one believer. Enter the 3151 challenge. In the month of February, we are challenging all of our Sunday School attendees to pray for 3 lost people, learn 1 gospel presentation, invite 5 people to Sunday School, and share the gospel with at least 1 person. At the beginning of March, we will have a celebration Sunday where we hope to baptize some new believers and challenge our members to keep up the good work of praying for the lost, sharing the gospel and inviting people to church!

All of us should be involved in this task, but if you have fallen out of Sunday School, plan to attend this week and start this campaign with your other class members. We will have a joint meeting of all adult classes in the sanctuary to kick off the campaign at 9:30 am this Sunday! BE THERE!