Custom Search

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How's Your Heart?

On this third Sunday of Lent, we look in on the people of Israel as they journey from Egypt to Canaan and we find them at a place that would be named Massah and Meribah. Here they found no water and true to form they began to grumble and complain. The Old Testament passage in Exodus 17:1-7 bluntly states that by complaining they were actually tempting the LORD.

Psalm 95 begins with the exhortation to sing to the LORD; to come before Him with thanksgiving, making a joyful noise; to come worship and bow down. But, it ends with the admonition to not harden our hearts as in the day of provocation, a reference to the Exodus passage. The grumbling and complaining of the people was evidence of a hard heart.

Then, John 4:5-42 relates the story of a woman who could have had a hard heart, but in her conversation with Jesus, it was softened to the point of belief and salvation that led to a vibrant witness to God's mercy and love. It is the story of the Samaritan woman that Jesus met at the well.

Finally, although the trials, troubles, and temptations of our life could lead us to hardened hearts, the epistle reading in Romans 5:1-11 tells us that the alternate route is for tribulations to work patience, which brings experience, and results in hope.

This final passage is rich in that it uses several of the big, theologically rich words of our faith like justified, reconciled, and atonement. The big three are also found in this passage: faith, hope, and love. And we must not fail to notice the trinitarian nature of the passage with the mention of all three persons of the Godhead: God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.

The passage also contains that verse that shows us the vastness of God's love for us:

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

So, as we journey with Christ to the crucifixion during this lenten season, how are our hearts? Are they hardened with grumbling, griping, and complaining, not recognizing the goodness of our Creator God, or are they soft and moldable so that we can receive and experience all that God has for us through the riches of His Son, Jesus?

As we come together in our journey this Sunday, let us lift our eyes to the cross of Calvary and realize that the cross we see and the amazing love portrayed there demand of us our soul, our life, our all. Listen carefully as the choir presents "The Wondrous Cross" a setting of the text of "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" using an Appalachian Folk Melody arranged by Lee Poquette.

* * * * * * *

In the absence of our pastor, Cary Hilliard, who is experiencing the wonders of traveling to Israel, Dr. G. Todd Wilson will be presenting the message. Dr. Wilson who is a former pastor at First Baptist Church, Jefferson will be using as his text Acts 20:7-12 and entitling his message, "Sleeping During the Sermon" - we probably should plan to stay awake for this one (SMILE).


Monday, February 18, 2008

Words from the Past

In going through some items in the cleaning process, I found the following article that I had written many years ago. The thoughts are still appropriate and still of interest, so with the idea of preservation I present them here (with paragraph editing - for some reason, I didn't divide the article into paragraphs back then):


Dear People...

Why do I like new songs?

Ladies, suppose your husband came home from work for the last 25 years, kissed you at the door, and said, "I love you!"

Now suppose one day he came home at lunch, handed you a rose, and said, "I love you!" It wouldn't make the other way less special, but it would probably make your fountain bubble.

Old songs are wonderful. They speak to my heart and even sometimes give me goosebumps, but sometimes they get so familiar that I don't really pay attention to them. But a new song allows me to say the same thing (or hear the same thing) in a fresh way. My mind becomes more alert and again the truth of God's love and the foundations of our faith are revealed to me.

I love the old songs - they are part of my heritage - but I also love the new songs.

"O sing unto the LORD a new song." (Psalm 96:1)


Friday, February 15, 2008

Which Way?

In the Old Testament reading for this, the second Sunday of Lent, God tells Abram to get out, to leave, and go to a land that He would show him (Genesis 12:1-4a). God made great promises and the passage ends with Abram's obedience: "so Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him."

The Epistle reading is Romans 4:1-5, 13-17, in which we are told that Abraham's belief was counted as righteousness. Abraham believed, acting in obedience, showing us that the way to travel is by faith and not by works - the promise is not through the law, but through faith.

Psalm 121, a song of ascents or degrees, is believed to be a song that the pilgrims of that day would sing as they approached ("went up to") Jerusalem - a song for the journey. The promise of God portrayed by this psalm is that He is the protector and provider for this journey of life that we find ourselves on.

And then, in the Gospel reading (John 3:1-17), we find the story of Nicodemus, who was told that the journey begins with a new life and that it is because of God's love:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)


So, as we look again at our Lenten theme of "denying ourself, taking up our cross, and following Jesus," we see that this journey began in the heart of God with His love and we enter it and live it by faith. We also recognize that it comes with the promise of God for His provision and protection.

Specifically, this Sunday, we find Christ's own promise for the journey:

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

The choir supports this message by singing a setting of this text, "Come to Me, All Who Labor" from 1975 by John Purifoy.

Which way? By faith!


Friday, February 8, 2008

Lent, Love, & Self-Denial

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent (2008) on "the church" calendar.

Although a season generally not mentioned among Baptists, it like Advent provides the individual with an opportunity to examine himself/herself in the light of Who God is. For Lent, we recognize our sinfulness and recognize the great love of God, Who gave Himself for us on the cross of Calvary.

For this Sunday, the scripture readings found in the Lectionary are:

(1) Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 - Adam & Eve make that fateful choice that brings sin upon mankind.

(2) Psalm 32 - David's great cry of confession and recognition of God's blessing of forgiveness.

(3) Romans 5:12-19 - As death reigned through the offence of one man, so through the righteousness of One came justification of life.

(4) Matthew 4:1-11 - The temptation of Jesus by the devil.

How fitting as we begin this season of Lent that the celebration of love (St. Valentine's Day) follows by just a few days. We know from scripture that love is of God for God is Love. So, on this first Sunday of Lent, the choir sings "God Loves" by Phillip Langrave.

In the first stanza, we acknowledge God's love in sending His Son, Jesus and working His work of love through Him so that even I, though undeserving of His love, can know His love and be set free by it.

Then, in the second stanza, we sing of our need to love God in return for His great love and to show that love in all of our life: "in what I think, in what I do, in how I live."

And finally, there is a world that needs to know of this great love. How awesome that God would use the time and talents that He has given us in such a way that our very lifes should bear witness to those who are lost in sin and that His love through us can show that He cares for them. Yes, God loves!


So, we come at last to the Lenten Theme for First Baptist Church, Jefferson, Georgia: Take Up Thy Cross.

For this first Sunday of Lent the scripture reading is the passage that contains those very words: Matthew 16:24-27

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul.

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

And in the sermon, we are challenged by the words of Jesus that he who would be great, must be a servant.


How is God to use us as His servant, His conduit of love unless we deny ourself, take up our cross, and follow Him?