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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Embrace Eternity

The way to life is straight and the gate is narrow. The way to destruction is broad and many are on that path.

One of the difficulties that we face as we travel this life is to keep eternity in sight. It is so difficult to see past the health issues, the financial issues, the job issues, the family issues, and whatever your particular issues are.

It is necessary though to realize that this life is lived in the context of an eternity and that each of us will either find eternity in heaven or hell. Therefore, it is in our own best interest to live our life with eternity in view.

This Sunday the choir will sing the wonderful anthem Untitled Hymn. It seems a strange title (similar to Vaughan Williams tune SINE NOMINE - without name). However, as I thought about the text - we are weak and wounded, we fall down, we cry, we hurt, we die, and yet God is there calling us to Himself and offering to us His strength, His protection, His love, and His eternity - it seemed that the love and blessings of God are beyond our ability to label/to title, so how appropriate that this anthem of God's goodness in our weakness should have this title. Yet it is appended with the call of Christ Himself who said, "Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" - Come to Jesus.


VBS Pictures

Just a brief note to let my readers know that pictures from the Georgia Baptist State VBS Training Conference in Toccoa, GA are posted on my website at There is a link is in the sidebar.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Give Forgiveness

What we all need, what we all want, what we need to give, and what we usually don't want to give - forgiveness.

Luke 19:1-10 tells the story of Zacchaeus, the publican of Jericho, who was so short that he had to climb a tree to see Jesus who invited Himself over for a meal (how many remember the song: Zacchaeus was a wee little man ... [everybody sing]?).

Well, short story long, Zacchaeus' life was changed - radically - and he made some changes in his lifestyle because of it. It was so radical that Jesus declared that salvation had come to that house. Zacchaeus had received forgiveness from God.

Matthew 6:14-15 does bring us up short if we see what it says, if we forgive, we will be forgiven by God, but if we don't forgive, we will not be forgiven by God. Ouch!

Romans 14:13 tells us not to judge one another, but to judge ourselves as to whether we are causing our brothers and sisters to stumble in the way.

It is clear that we are to give forgiveness.


This is the sermon topic for this Sunday (April 20, 2008) in our Live Like You Were Dying Theme. In our music, we emphasize this by offering ourselves to be God's vessel in Sanctuary and noting that we ourselves are debtors to God's grace in Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.

We recognize that we need to freely give forgiveness as we have freely received forgiveness from God by singing Freely, Freely and that we have a call to live the Christ life in We Are Called to Be God's People.

The Adult Choir challenges us to live this out by sharing the anthem Lift Your Light by Mary McDonald.

Then we sing a wonderful text by Gloria Gaither entitled I Then Shall Live with the line "as one who's been forgiven." After a testimony in the 10:50 a.m. service and the sermon, we offer the response invitation Living for Jesus.

Forgiveness - we definitely need and want it.

Forgiveness - we definitely need to give it.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Choral Anthems - April

As you are aware (possibly), the theme for this month at FBC, Jefferson is Live Like You Were Dying. This past Sunday, the choir anthem was Your Love Compels Me to coordinate with the subject of "Love Deeper."

This coming Sunday, with the subject of "Speak Sweeter," there is no adult choir anthem as the children will be singing in the services.

The remaining 2 Sundays in the month (and in the theme) will be:

- April 20: "Give Forgiveness" with a repeat of the favorite anthem, Lift Your Light.

- April 27: "Embrace Eternity" with another favorite, Untitled Hymn.

Each choir member should make every effort to be in rehearsal as we prepare these and other anthems for presentation in the coming weeks. We also invite former choir members and anyone else who would love to be a part of the great Adult Choir of First Baptist Church, Jefferson, Georgia to come join us each Wednesday, 7:00 - 8:30 p.m. for a tiring but inspiring rehearsal.



For those who are interested, you are invited to visit my webpage: You can either click on the link in the sidebar or here to access the pages.

You will find some pages dedicated to "our girls" including Abby, as well as the babies we have lost.

There are others pages as well, although most are not updated very often.

Anyhow, for what it's worth, feel free to browse around.


Sweet Talkin'

Actually, it will be Speak Sweeter. That is the title given for the emphasis this week in our Live Like You Were Dying series at First Baptist Church, Jefferson, GA.

The scripture passages are Ephesians 4:29-32 in which we are encouraged to speak in ways that edify others and Ephesians 5:15-21 in which we are to speak to others in songs, hymns, and spiritual songs and speak to God with thanksgiving.

This Sunday, our Children's Choir (grades 1-5) will be helping lead in worship in our services at 8:30 and 10:50 a.m. by sharing a couple of the songs they have been preparing.

Let's hold back on the "corrupt communication" of this life and learn to "speak sweeter" - oh, come on, just do some sweet talkin'.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Easter Goes On

At First Baptist Church, Jefferson, Georgia, we continue the Easter season by entering into a series with a new theme: Live Like You Were Dying.

On this first Sunday of the new theme we are urged to "Love Deeper."

The text comes from 1 Peter 4:7-11 in which with the knowledge of the end approaching, we are to have a fervent love for each other, and from Mark 12:28-34, The Great Commandment:

The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. (29-31)

In our worship this Sunday, we will begin by expressing our love for God: "I Love You, Lord," "My Jesus, I Love Thee," and "O How I Love Jesus." We acknowledge that to love God is the greatest thing that we can do in all of our life with "The Greatest Thing" (know, love, and serve the Lord).

Then the choir transitions by expressing that it is God's love for us and our love for Him that leads us, yea, compels us, to love and serve those around us in the Doug Holck anthem "Your Love Compels Me."

Finally, the music portion of our service ends with us expressing our love for each other in "I Love You with the Love of the Lord," and a statement of the love passage of 1 Corinthians 13 that, unless we love, all our actions are in vain, in the song, "The Gift of Love" by Hal H. Hopson.

May we love God and each other more deeply. In doing so, we acknowledge that although we are dying we live through Christ who loves us so.

When we live like we are dying, then Easter goes on ...


Celebration of a New Covenant

OK, there was an event recently that went by this name or something similar, but I'm speaking of the REAL thing!

Different church traditions call it different names with sometimes very different understandings of what is taking place. In my faith tradition, we usually call it The Lord's Supper, however, I like to call it a Celebration of Communion.

It is a time to celebrate what Christ has done for us and a time to enter into communion, fellowship, even theologically "koinonia" both with our fellow worshipers and with the spirit of Christ. As we gather around the table of the Lord, we recognize His presence among us (in my faith tradition, it is a memorial supper, not a sacrament or salvific experience in which Christ is present with the host - bread and wine/fruit of the vine - or the host becomes the very body and blood of Christ), remember the price that He paid for our salvation, and look forward to His return.

The event in itself is a portrayal of the first such occasion where Christ, Himself, took the bread and said, "This is my body broken for you," and then the cup saying, "This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many."

Although we celebrate this several times during the year (some traditions more than others), there is that special celebration on the Thursday before Easter that is called Maundy Thursday. Our bulletin for that evening stated that "Maundy Thursday gets its name from the Latin phrase mandatum novum, which is translated "new commandment."

At First Baptist Church, Jefferson, GA we celebrated this last Maundy Thursday with a service of worship. Since we were not having a Good Friday service, ours took on the character of a combination Maundy Thursday/Good Friday service in which the outline was provided by a service of Tenebrae (or shadows) in which the light was gradually extinguished (as pointed out by someone else, the reverse of Advent where light is added each week). At the end of our service we proceeded silently to the cross in our church yard, where the purple draping was replaced by black.

Music was a factor in our service. We shared congregational singing together with "O How He Loves You and Me," a more recent chorus about God's love for us, "Hallelujah! What a Savior," an older hymn declaring the merits of our Lord, and the wonderful old hymn, "O Sacred Head, Now Wounded."

Additionally we had a soloist share with us a song she had recently sung in one our Sunday services, proclaiming the truth of Christ's substitutionary sacrifice in "The Day he Wore My Crown."

Of course, the choir had opportunity to sing, sharing with the congregation "And All the World Was Silent" by Charlotte Lee and Douglas E. Wagner in which the silence of sorrow was wonderfully expressed. They also sang, "Broken for You" by Steve Wilkinson and David T. Clydesdale a text that told again the story of that first communion. Finally, the choir presented (again) "Written in Red" by Gordon Jensen acknowledging the love that was shown to us on the cross of Calvary by our Lord.

It was a very fitting and moving celebration ... a celebration of Christ's new covenant with us.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Passion Sunday

Actually, Passion Sunday is the same day as Palm Sunday. It is my understanding that designating this Sunday as Passion Sunday allows those churches that do not have Good Friday (or Maundy Thursday) services to transition from the celebration of the Triumphal Entry of Palm Sunday to the pain and sorrow of Gethsemane and the Crucifixion.

The texts for Year A are those of the Passion:

- Isaiah 50:4-9a with its prophecy of Christ's humiliation at the hands of the Roman soldiers.

- Psalm 31:9-16 which calls to my mind Job 13:15, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." This cry of grief with the strength of trust calls to mind the trial before the Sanhedrin. (One can also look a few verses earlier and find one of Christ's quotes from the cross: "Into thine hand I commit my spirit" - Psalm 31:5.

- Philippians 2:5-11 the great passage on the mind of Christ, in which, He humbled Himself, taking on the form of man and submitting to death on the cross, thereby receiving glory and honor from His Father.

- Matthew 26:14-27:66 (or the shorter passage of Matthew 27:11-54) which tells the story from Judas' betrayal through the Last Supper, the Garden of Gethsemane, the trial before the Sanhedrin and Pilate, the Crucifixion, and the Burial.

May God bless us as we recall not only Christ's triumph, but also His sacrifice for us that He might save us from our sins.


The Power of Invitation

Actually, "The Power of Invitation" was the sermon title for Sunday, March 30, 2008. It was based on the Scripture texts of Mark 16:14-16 and Luke 19:1-10.

Mark 16, of course, records a post-resurrection appearance of Christ in which He issues the Great Commission. Each of the other gospels, as well as Acts, also record this Great Commission: Matthew 28:18-20 (the most familiar), Luke 24:46-48, John 20:21, and Acts 1:8.

Luke 19, on the other hand, is the story of Zacchaeus and his conversion. To him, the invitation was given and he responded in faith.

Today, the invitation is also given: the invitation to come to Christ in repentance receiving the salvation that He so freely offers through His death on the cross. But, we who believe also have the invitation to join Christ in His mission - to be as it were, His hands, His feet, His heart to those we meet each day.

The choir sang a wonderful older anthem by Eugene Butler that expressed this Great Commission by quoting the text from Mark, "Go Ye into All the World." This is expanded with the quote from John 15:12-13 about our need to love others as Christ loved us and the great passage of strength and comfort found in John 14:1.

Let us then respond to Christ's invitation: yes, to salvation, but even beyond that to love as He loved and to know His peace in this world.