I can still remember walking through downtown San Antonio on my way to my first Southern Baptist Convention there, when all of the sudden, on my left, I saw this building, made of big, blondish white stones — and suddenly it dawned on me: this was the Alamo! It’s always been so ironic to me that the Alamo isn’t out in the prairie somewhere, but it’s right smack in the middle of the city in San Antonio!
But those stones there mean something, don’t they — to all Americans, and especially to Texans. That’s where William B. Travis, James Bowie, Davey Crockett, and scores of others gave their lives in March of 1836 fighting for Texas independence. “Remember the Alamo” became the battle cry for the new Texas Republic. The Alamo is one of the most famous historical spots in the United States, as we remember the courage, and the commitment to lay down your life for what you believe in, that it represents. We will remember what those stones at the Alamo mean!
In Joshua 4, God/s people were on their way into the Promised Land, after all those years of wilderness wandering. The Jordan River was at flood stage, so how were they all going to cross it? God miraculously stopped up the river the moment the feet of the priests hit the water, and Israel marched right in. And God told them to do something special on the way: He told them to take 12 stones out of the middle of that Jordan River bed, and take them into the Promised Land along with them. They camped at Gilgal, east of Jericho, and they set those 12 stones up. And Joshua said in 4:21 “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What so these stones mean?’, then you shall inform your children, saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed … THAT all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty …”.
What did those stones mean? They meant that God had done a great work in their midst — and those stones were there to make sure they did not forget it.
Well today we have some stones too, don’t we? These beautiful blonde stones that adorn our new facility. Someone driving by Anchor Road or some of the thousands of cars that travel Highway 288 every day might look over here and ask this very same question of OUR building: “What do THESE stones mean?”
A very interesting fact: the stones that adorn this building are REAL stones, called “Santa Fe Chop,” and they were actually quarried here in Texas — of all places — just north of the Alamo! Well just like like the stones at Alamo; just like the stones from the Jordan River, the stones of this building are not here accidentally. “What do these stones mean” for us?
I. These stones mean that God had a purpose.
When God commanded the people of Israel to take 12 stones out of the Jordan River that day, He had a purpose in it: to remind the people of the miracle He had performed that day, when He dried up the Jordan River during flood stage, and led Israel into the Promised Land. Those stones set up at Gilgal had their purpose in the plan of God.
And we need to remember the same thing is true of THESE stones in our building today. They remind us that GOD had a plan and purpose for this place.
It would be easy for a well-meaning person say something like, “This all began with Bro. Rodney in 2004” or something like that. But that would miss the most vital element. (As Rodney mentioned a moment ago.) Everything begins with God. Everything always begins with God. The scripture opens with those crucial words: “In the beginning, God …”. It is ALWAYS “in the beginning, God …” And so it is to this day. It is always “In the beginning, God.” GOD is always the initiator; we are responders to Him, and to His plans and purposes.
Joshua said in :23 that those stones meant that “The Lord your God dried up the waters.” “These stones” in Israel’s day were GOD’S work. And we need to know that “our stones” here today are God’s work too.
We need to recognize that it is God’s plan and purpose that we are living out here — and the fact that it is GOD’S plan is both a great privilege and a great responsibility:
— What a privilege it is for us: to be a part of something that GOD HIMSELF is doing in our world — in our town. And God HAS been working, hasn’t He? We’ve had so many guests; we’ve seen people join the church almost every week, we have baptized several — GOD is at work. It is a privilege to be a part of that!
— But that we are involved in God’s work is also a great responsibility. This is not just OUR work, to do with whatever we want — it is GOD’S!
As we talked about last week, God did not plant us here as a church to just “drift” along with the times; He strategically placed us here to “stand firm” in the faith:
— that the Bible is the inspired word of God
— that in the beginning, GOD created the heavens and the earth, and made us male and female
— and that Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only way to heaven
We are not here to drift aimlessly; we are here to stand on God’s word and to fulfill to GOD’S purposes for us. Theses stones mean that God has a plan and a purpose — which is both a great privilege, and a great responsibility for us!
II. Theses stones mean there was a leader with vision:
God has plans, and in HIs plans, He uses men. God used Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt, and up to the brink of the Promised Land. The work of the Exodus was the work of God — but God used a man to share His vision with the people, and to bring it to pass.
And the same thing happened here, didn’t it? God, who had a plan and a purpose for First Baptist Church, communicated that vision to Rodney Bowman, the pastor of this church, back in 2004. I want to tell you, church, that I respect Bro. Rodney greatly for letting God use him to share this vision: that took faith; that took courage; that took perseverance on his part.
Many men who share a vision are not followed or appreciated. When Thomas Edison came up with the light bulb, many said “That’s great — but how are you going to get electricity to all of the homes to light all those bulbs? There will be this wild, unleashed electricity everywhere burning down homes and eloctrocuting people!” Many were skeptical of Edison’s vision.
It takes courage to set forth a bold vision. (It helps when you know it is from God, which I know Rodney would affirm!). But I’ll just tell you, as a pastor, I really appreciate the courage, and the boldness, and the perseverance that Rodney Bowman showed in setting forth this vision for First Baptist Angleton. And I say that partially that because I know that “faith,” or “vision” is NOT my greatest gift. But God places His men where He wants them to be for His particular times. God appointed Bro. Rodney to be here to share that vision — and I know he must be SO gratified today to see that vision fulfilled here “in these stones”! It’s a great privilege to see a vision come to pass! Moses didn’t get to see the Promised Land. Rodney’s here today sitting in it! — at least as far as “God’s Vision In Action” is concerned! You’re sitting in the fulfilled vision!
But I just want to affirm: God used you, Brother — and we are grateful for you, aren’t we, church? These stones mean there was a leader with a vision.
III. These stones mean there is a people who follow.
Moses and Joshua led the people of Israel, and the people followed. Their obedience was not perfect, as we know, but they did follow them out of Egypt and to the Promised Land. And Joshua didn’t cross the Jordan alone. He did it with the people of God who followed His leadership.
And the same thing is true here at First Baptist, Angleton. One of God’s great blessings to this church is a people with a heart to follow. I wasn’t here for the whole history of this project of “God’s Vision In Action,” but I know that the people here followed it by adopting this vision; they followed by giving to support it; and they followed by voting to make that move.
I’ll never forget how this people followed the very first night I was called to pastor this church. On Sunday morning I was voted in as the new pastor of First Baptist Angleton — and THAT SAME Sunday night we met with a presentation to move forward with this building. (I’ll tell you now, that was just a tad challenging for a guy whose gift is not faith or vision!) — but I loved the spirit of the people who follow!
First Baptist Angleton, thank you for being a people who follow. You followed as we made the final decisions on the building; you followed when we made the big decision to move ahead with the financing; you followed as we began the transition — and you followed as we made the move, with our first meeting here on Sunday, November 22, 2020 — in the midst of an international pandemic — you followed!
And you have continued to follow:
— You followed as we prayer walked “Every Street/Every Home” in Angleton in March, so that we can look any person we meet in this town in the eye and say: “Our church has prayed for YOU; for YOUR home, for YOUR family!” And we sowed seeds in prayer in March that will impact this town for years to come.
— You followed in our first “neighborhood outreach” to 3 neighborhoods around the church — and then to took dozens of meals to your neighbors and prospects and the elderly and the homebound as well.
God says in Judges 5:2, Oh that the leaders led in Israel — and that the people volunteered! THAT is a blessing from God: to have a people who follow. I am blessed to be your pastor!
That these stones are here right now, means there is a people who follow. Had there not been a people who followed, these stones would not be here today!
IV. These stones mean there is a church here with a MISSION!
Today is a great day for the First Baptist Church of Angleton — but this isn’t the “end” of the story. This is just the beginning!
God’s plan for First Baptist Angleton is not just to “build a building.” This building is here for a PURPOSE: to be used for His mission: to “worship God, and serve Him by reaching, teaching, and caring for people” from this strategic location, that HE might be glorified here. We’ve just started to do that! And Lord willing we’ll continue to do it until Jesus comes.
At the end of Joshua 24, Joshua says that “these stones” were there “THAT” — that’s the “purpose clause”; the “WHY” of all this — “THAT all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of of the LORD is mighty, SO THAT you may fear the LORD your God forever.” Joshua said THAT is why “these stones” are here; THAT people may know and follow our God.
And that is why THESE stones are here at 972 Anchor Road today too. So that people may know and follow the God of the Bible; the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Psalm 67 says “God be gracious to us, and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us — (WHY?) It says: “THAT Thy way may be known on the earth; Your salvation among all nations …”. We are here to proclaim His salvation: that although all of us have sinned and separated ourselves from God, Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins, and whoever will repent and follow Him as their Lord & Savior will be saved. Our purpose is to share that message. These stones are here so that we might proclaim the gospel of Jesus here in Angleton, and through missions, to the ends of the earth.
Just as someone walking down Alamo Street in San Antonio might ask, “What do these stones mean?” So someone — maybe today, maybe this week — will look at THESE blonde Texas stones, sitting here at the corner of Anchor Road and Highway 288 and ask “What do these stones mean?”
When they do, we need to remember:
— We need to remember they mean there is a God who has a purpose
— We need to remember they mean there was a leader who had a vision
— We need to remember they mean there was a people who followed
— and we need to remember they mean that we are here as a church to carry out a mission, stand on God’s word, and to proclaim the gospel of God’s salvation, until Jesus comes!
THAT is what “these stones” mean!
— maybe you’re hearing us talk about the Gospel, but YOU’ve never given your life to Christ. You need to do that right now.
— Or maybe you need to be baptized following a previous profession of faith in Christ.
— maybe you need a church home — what a great day to join us here on mission at First Baptist Angleton!
— maybe you’ve been tempted to just sit comfortably here in this nice, new place, and God’s saying to you, NO! We are here to serve, and that’s what I want YOU to do
— maybe you are one who has been giving to “God’s Vision in Action” — or maybe you never have, and today you need to take one of those envelopes from the pew and begin helping with “our church family’s house payment” or give a special gift.
There are lots of ways we can respond today, but MOST ESPECIALLY if you are receiving Christ as your Lord & Savior today, and need to be baptized, some and share that with me right now …