11
Aug
15

Sowing and Reaping

Sowing and Reaping was the evening message at Bethesda Baptist Church in Harlem Georgia on June 7, 2015. The text is taken from Psalm 126 and Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23.

My Poppa Bowers raised about 60 acres of corn and peanuts every year with two mules. There was plenty of work to do after the harvest season to be ready for the next spring’s planting. He would spend some time in the fall making repairs to equipment and he would also go back to the fields. He harvested the corn by hand, pulling the dried ears of corn and placing them in a long corn sack that was strapped over his shoulder while walking down the middles of the rows. This method of harvesting means that the stalks were still left standing. At some point during the winter he would hook up his stalk cutter to the mules and ride through the corn fields cutting the stalks. It would not only cut the stalks down, but it would chop them up. Poppa would let them rot in the field, turning into a rich mulch on top of which he would then turn the dirt over sometime in the late winter or very early spring, along about February or March. I remember walking behind him in the furrow when he would use the turning plow to do this. He would walk behind a mule for miles a day until the dirt was all turned over.All of this was to prepare the soil for the coming spring’s planting. You see, you had to take care to have the soil ready to receive the seed. Poppa knew that, and so did Jesus. He told us about it in a parable.

Read Matthew 13:1-9

In my previous blog post we considered Psalm 126. Now we are going to break that verse down a little bit more in light of Matthew 13:1-9.

The Task of the Sower

The Psalmist said, “He that goeth forth…

Jesus said, “Behold the sower went out to sow;”

We will never have a harvest until the seed is in the ground. We are all modern day sowers and there is a task before us. What makes you and me sowers? In Jesus’ parable it says the man was a sower before it says he “went out to sow.” What makes you and me a sower is that we are the possessors of seeds. We have something of great value that needs to be planted.

The Tears of the Sower?

The Psalmist said, “He that goeth forth with weeping…”

When is the last time you wept over a lost soul? In reading Jesus’ explanation of the parable in Matthew we see that all of these soils represent hearts that are in different states of readiness to receive the seed.  I don’t know that prayer for lost souls can be effective without tears, because I don’t know that we will be bold enough to take the seeds and plant them where they need to be planted unless we care enough to shed some tears. I ask you again, when is that last time you wept over a lost soul?

The Terrain of the Sower: the Soils

The Roadway – Verse 4 of Jesus’ parable says, “and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.”

If you look in verses 18-23 Jesus explains what this parable means and in verse 19 he talks about this soil. The seed sown on the roadside is compared to someone who might hear the word but not understand it and Satan comes and “snatches away what has been sown in his heart.”

The Rocky Places – Then there are those seeds that “fell on rocky places where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.” 

Jesus describes the seeds that fall on this soil as the heart of one “who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.” 

This person may rejoice at this great gift that is presented to him but when this person is faced with trials or adversity they don’t run to God, they run away from Him.

The Thorny Places – “Others fell among thorns and the thorns came up and choked them out.”

In verse 22 Jesus says that this seed fell on soil that was like “the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” 

The Good Soil – The final soil that receives the sowers seeds is the good soil. The ready soil. It’s well cultivated. The rich good earth is turned up to receive the seed. Jesus said of this soil, “And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop…

The Rewards of the Sower: The Reaping

In verse 23 of Matthew 13 Jesus says that the seeds sown on good soil yield a crop, “some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

The Psalmist said in Psalm 126:6 that “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

One of the spiritual laws of sowing and reaping is that we will always reap what we sow? So it could be said that another spiritual law of sowing and reaping is…you cannot reap what you have not sown. Friends, the reason our baptistries are not full of water every Sunday is that we aren’t sowing, cultivating and nurturing enough seed to reap a harvest.

Do you really want to see a revival in your church that becomes contagious and burns like wildfire?

Behold…listen

a sower…that’s you and me

went forth…that’s action, that’s now

to sow…that’s our task.

28
Jul
15

This is My Story! This Is My Song!

“This Is My Story! This Is My Song!” was preached on June 7 in the morning service at Bethesda Baptist Church in Harlem, Georgia

I remember the days when I was a little boy of 6 or 7 when I would stand next to my grandfather Bowers, my Poppa, as he poured seed corn into the hoppers on a three-row Covington planter that was attached to the South end of a pair of North-bound mules. He was always very careful with the seed-corn. Every kernel counted. He wanted to make sure that every single kernel of seed-corn made it into the hoppers on that planter so that he could get it into the ground. You see, every kernel of that seed that germinated would become a stalk that would yield possibly as many as half a dozen ears of corn. That would be several hundred if not several thousand times the number of kernels of corn that went into the ground. That corn was his livelihood. Much of it was used as feed for the mules, the chickens that Grandma kept to provide fresh eggs for our family to eat and for her to sell, and the cow that Poppa milked twice a day. Occasionally we used it to feed out a young steer or a pig that would go to the butcher and that would become the hamburgers, steaks, ham, bacon and sausage that would fill our freezers. Once it was harvested, this corn would feed Poppa’s livestock through the winter and into the next spring and summer, until the harvest came again. That’s why every seed was vital.

The Psalmist understood this truth. Read Psalm 126

Psalm 126 is one of a group of the Psalms known as Psalms of Ascent. Psalms of “Going Up.” These Psalms, according to religious traditions of the Jews were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road leading up to the city of Jerusalem. Some traditions say that they were also sung by the Levitical singers as they ascended the steps to the temple to render their service there. There are some suggestions that they were composed on the occasion of Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls around Jerusalem, which would be appropriate given the language of this particular Psalm. There are some scholars who believe these Psalms were written at different times and collected as a group of writings that were given the title Psalms of Ascent that linked them to the pilgrimage back to Judea and the city of Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity.

A Story

That line of thinking makes sense to me because the beginning of this Psalm tells a story. The Psalm-writer says, “When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion…”

Psalm 126 was written by someone who had lived through the 70 years of the Babylonian captivity and this was a Psalm of celebration! What does it say? “When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion we were like those who dream.” They thought they had just awakened from some terrible dream to discover that everything was made right…that everything was not only OK, but they were home and it was wonderful.

That was the story of these people. Now they had come back to Him and He had restored them and their joy was so apparent that the nations around them who were seeing them return were saying, “The Lord has done great things for them.” Wait a minute, these foreign nations were saying, “the Lord” has done great things for them? Oh yes, the God of Israel was a God of renown. The stories of the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the crumbling walls of Jericho, The victory of Gideon’s small army over a multitude…these stories did not go away. These surrounding nations knew who the God of Israel was. You see, Israel’s God was, and still is, very much alive.

A Song

That was their story…this is their song. Being delivered from Babylonian captivity and restored to their homeland put a song in the hearts of the Children of Israel and they picked up the chorus of these surrounding nations, only now it was, “The Lord has done great things for US. WE ARE GLAD.”

When you stop and think about the great things that God has done for you, does it make you glad? If you have ever been in a prison, and there are many kinds of prisons other than those with bars of steel…If you have ever been in a prison and have been released, then you know how to sing. In the case of the children of Israel it was all of them singing together because they had all been redeemed together and you see, only a redeemed people can sing. Folks, we have a reason to sing. You ought not ever come into this house of worship and not sing your heart out, because you have been REDEEMED.

A Prayer

Verse four says, “Restore our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the South.” First, let’s think about the last part of that phrase… “as the streams in the South.” The original language uses the word Negev which identifies a dry desert region in the southern part of the Promised Land west of the Jordan River and east of Egypt. This area probably receives no more than 8 inches of rain per year. But when the rains do come the dry, empty riverbeds fill with the runoff and there is water for a short season. Flash flooding would not be uncommon here because of the topography.

This prayer of the Children of Israel was one of hope that the God who  delivered them from Babylonian captivity could and would deliver any of their brothers and sisters who might still be in captivity (remember that not all of the Jews returned to Jerusalem with Nehemiah) and that it would happen suddenly and soon, like one of those flash floods in the Negev.

Perhaps it was also a prayer that if they ever stumbled and fell again, which they would, that God’s deliverance would be swift and sure.

A Promise

And the Promise is really the focus of all of this. It is a two-part promise.

Trading Sorrows for Shouts of Joy

The Psalmist says, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.”

 For 70 years these folks had been in bondage in Babylon. For 70 years they had been weeping. But now they were free…and their song was, “The Lord has done great things for us. WE ARE GLAD!”

There are people all around us who are in bondage and they don’t even know it. I’m sure that there were children born into the Hebrew families while they were in Babylon. These children were born into bondage, but they knew it. They were reminded of it day after day by their parents. But the people around us who are enslaved don’t have a clue. That’s where the second part of the promise comes into play.

Trading Seeds for a Harvest of Souls

The Psalmist says, “He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing His sheaves with him.”

 When is the last time you wept over a lost soul? Stop and think about it. The lost people that we know, if they do not learn about Christ and receive Him, will die without Christ and spend an eternity in hell. That ought to bring us to tears. And when is the last time you carried some precious seed into this lost world? The King James version calls them “precious seeds.”

You see, here is the promise…that if we will go out into this lost world with a broken heart for those we know who are lost and if we will “weep o’er the erring one, and lift up the fallen and tell them of Jesus the mighty to save,” then God’s promise is that there is no doubt that we will come back again, bringing our sheaves with us.

Do you remember that I talked about my Poppa not wanting to waste a single seed? It was important that they all made it into the field. He didn’t want to come back to the barn with any seed left in the sack. What about you and me? What do our seed sacks look like? Are they being steadily emptied in the fields of our lives, or are they still full? How many shouts of joy will we have to offer up in praise to our Lord for the souls who have come to Him? How many sheaves will you harvest? How many will I?

From what bondage have you been delivered? What is your story? Are you filled with joy over God’s deliverance? What kind of song are you singing? Those seed-bags filled with the gospel that you’ve been carrying, how full they? Are you sowing those precious seeds or are you taking them back to the barn?

28
Jul
15

Choices

“Choices” was preached at Calvary Baptist Church, Dearing, Georgia on May 31, 2015

Central idea: Everything that we do in life, no matter how great or how seemingly insignificant it is, begins with a choice. In every choice we make, we need to choose for God.

Choices, we make them every day. Some of them have little if any bearing on how our lives play out: shall I wear the plaid shirt or the striped one? The khaki pants or the dress slacks? Will breakfast be toast and bacon and eggs or cereal?

Some choices have much more of an impact on our lives: What career will I pursue? Do I need to go to college or should I go to trade school, and, if so, where will I go? Who will I marry? Will we have children? If so, how many? Where will we live?

Some choices, however, have an impact not only upon our lives right now and on the people whose lives we touch, but on eternity. What place will God have in my life? To what extent am I going to yield my life to Him in service? How will I influence my family either toward or away from God? Those are the choices we are going to talk about today.

The text for the sermon is Joshua 24:1-15. The key verse is verse 15 where Joshua said, “Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve…but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

It was an imperative choice. “Choose”

Why did God require them to make a choice to follow Him or not? He required them to choose because we have always had to choose and always will.

  • First Eve and then Adam…they had to choose; “Will we eat the fruit or not eat the fruit?”
  • Abram, when called to follow God…he had to choose; “Will I stay her at my father’s house or follow this God who is speaking to me?”
  • Moses at the burning bush…he had to choose; “Will I stay in the desert to tend sheep or go back to Egypt?”
  • Jesus, when facing the cross…He had to choose. “Will I go to the cross or not?” Do you remember these words, “Father, if there be any way please let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done.” Jesus had to choose the cross. It didn’t just happen to Him. He chose it, for you and for me.

God made the children of Israel choose. It was an imperative choice.

It was an individual choice. For yourselves…”

Joshua was saying to them, “I can’t make this choice for you. You have to make it, individually.” Why do we have to make the choice as an individual? Because God desires a personal relationship with each one of us…individually? God doesn’t have any grandchildren. He only has children. You can’t claim a relationship with God because your Daddy or your Mama loved him. You have to love Him. You have to choose Him. It’s a personal decision. It’s an individual choice. Choose well.

It was an imminent choice. “Today…”

The children of Israel couldn’t stop and think about it. They couldn’t wait until a more convenient time to make the choice. Joshua’s admonition to them was “Choose for yourselves…TODAY.” They were about to be sent to claim their inheritance. Before they were sent out they had to make the choice about whom they would serve.

We have to make the choice to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength every day. We have to choose to serve Him daily. Jesus said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wishes to come after me he must deny himself, and take up his cross DAILY, and follow me.” It is a daily, right now, every day, every hour, every minute, every second choice. Make it NOW!

It was an important choice. “Whom you will serve…”

They would be choosing to serve the One True God or to worship and serve the gods of their fathers – the idols from the land “beyond the River” from whence Abraham’s father Terah had come, or from the Canaanites who still lived around them.

We don’t live in the ancient land of Israel and haven’t just conquered and settled a land of promise, but can we take a few moments and think about some modern day false gods?

  • What about Position/Prestige/Prominence? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to achieve success even if it does not honor God.
  • What about Popularity? Are you willing to do anything to “fit in” even if it means compromising your standards or your integrity?
  • What about your Possessions? Do they consume more of your time, attention and money than your relationship with God?
  • What about Pleasure? Do you seek after worldly pleasures at the expense of your reputation and/or your character and do you spend more on pleasing yourself than you spend on serving God and His kingdom?
  • What about People? Do relationship with people take precedence over your relationship with God?

What God wanted the children of Israel to understand was that they needed to die to anything that interfered with their relationship with Him. And those things, or relationships, needed to die to them as well. It’s an important choice.

It was an influential choice. “but as for me and my house…we will serve the Lord”

These people to whom Joshua was speaking were the children of those Israelites who, forty years earlier, had faced a strategic choice at Kadesh-Barnea…a choice to enter the Promised Land or not. If you read Numbers 13 and 14 you will read the account of the 12 spies who were sent into the Promised Land to spy out the land. Ten of them came back with a great report of the land, but fearful of the giants who lived in the land and said, “We cannot take the land.” Only two of the twelve spies said, “With God’s help, we can surely take the land.” Do you remember their names? Caleb and Joshua were those two spies. We remember them. Can you name any of the other ten? I didn’t think so. Those ten spies chose poorly and their choice caused an entire generation of Israelites to die in the wilderness. It was an influential choice.

CHOOSE…

FOR YOURSELVES…

TODAY…

WHOM YOU WILL SERVE…

BUT AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE…WE WILL SERVE THE LORD.

You can listen to “Choices” here:

01
Jul
15

The Cost of Knowing Jesus

If I were to ask you to name one person from scripture who knew Jesus well, some would name one of the disciples, especially Peter, James or John. Some might name Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Some would name the Apostle Paul. In the case of each one of these folks I’ve just mentioned, following Jesus came at a great cost. For many of them following Jesus meant they lost their livelihoods. Think of Peter, James and John leaving their fishing nets to follow Jesus. Some of them lost their homes. They became itinerant preachers for the cause of Christ. Some even lost their lives. We could spend a lot of time talking about each one individually, but in this sermon I want to focus on the Apostle Paul.

The text for this message is from Philippians 3:1-14. Take a moment to find your Bible and read that passage.

Anything worth doing or having is going to cost us something. If you buy a new house it’s going to cost you a mortgage. If you buy a new car you’ll be making monthly car payments and probably will be paying higher insurance premiums. If you like to play golf and want a membership at the local country club it’s going to cost you some money. If you want to be a doctor or a lawyer it’s going to cost you a lot of time and money to go to school to get the training required to pursue those professions.

Some of the things that Paul chose to give up in order to follow Christ are some of the same things we are faced with the choice to sacrifice in order to know Him. Let’s take a look at some of those things.

First of all, let’s see what Paul had to say about his Pedigree

In verse 5 scripture tells us that Paul was, “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews…” Because Benjamin was a favorite son of Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel, the tribe of Benjamin became a favored tribe. This was the tribe from which the first King of Israel, Saul, came. So to say that you were of the tribe of Benjamin was especially significant.

Paul was willing to count it as rubbish.

Then there was Paul’s Position

Verse 5 continues “…as to the Law, a Pharisee…”

Paul was a Pharisee trained by the greatest scholar of Jewish law and culture of his day, Gamaliel.  Paul was known to be a scholar. He was a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin is the name given in the mishna (the Jewish book of laws) to the council of seventy-one Jewish sages who constituted the supreme court and legislative body in Judea during the Roman period. Any scholar, at any time, could gain a place on the legislature by proving a greater level of scholarship in Jewish Law than a current member of the legislature. So Paul had to prove His level of scholarship in order to be a part of the Sanhedrin.

He was willing to count it as rubbish.

Then there was Paul’s Power

Verse 5 continues “…as to zeal, a persecutor of the church…”

Paul had the power of life and death over those who had forsaken thousands of years of Jewish faith and tradition in order to follow this new upstart called Jesus. At the stoning of Stephen, one of the first deacons and one of the first Christian martyrs, the Bible says in Act 7:58 “When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”

This young man, Saul, was Saul of Tarsus. His name was later changed to Paul. He had the power of life and death over those who did not agree with him as a Jew. He gave it up.

So what might we have to give up if we are going to know Christ and follow him? We might have to give up…

Personal Security and Comfort

 “ Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple…33 So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”         Luke 14:25-27, 33

Jesus was saying that we have to be like Paul and count the cost if we want to be his disciple. Do you remember Abraham? In Genesis 12, at the age of 75, he is told to get up and leave the house of his father and mother and go to a place that God would show him. How many of us, at age 75 would be willing to follow a God we’ve never heard of before to a place we’ve never been before, leaving behind everything that we’ve ever known? But that is what he calls us to do.

Then, if you will remember, in Genesis 22, God commands Abraham to take Isaac, his only son, his son of promise, to a mountain that God will show him and there sacrifice him to God. What faith it took to follow God!

Are your relationships keeping you from spending time with God?

All things, Paul said. That means our Possessions and Pleasure

On another occasion Jesus was approached by a young man whom we know as the Rich Young Ruler. In Matthew 19:21-22 we read, 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 22 But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.

Is your house, or your boat, or your bank account keeping you from spending time with God? Are your golf clubs or your shotguns or rifles keeping you from spending time with God?

All things, Paul said. That means our Popularity

Have you ever wanted to “fit in” even when you knew it was wrong? In Galatians chapter 2 beginning in verse 11 the Apostle Peter wanting to fit in with the Gentiles until his Jewish brethren from his friend, James’ chuch came to town. Then he wanted nothing to do with the Gentiles and only hung out with the Jewish believers. Paul scolded him…14But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Peter wanted to fit in…with the Jews. He had a no problem mingling with the Gentiles, until the delegation of Jewish Christians from the church in Jerusalem came for a visit. Then he didn’t want to mingle with the Gentiles.

Has your desire to “fit in” ever kept you from walking as closely to God as you should?

Pedigree, Position, Power, Personal Security and Comfort, Possessions and Pleasure, Popularity…All of these things are things we will have to sacrifice if we are going to know Jesus Christ in the Power of His Resurrection, and the Fellowship of His Sufferings, and if we are going to be made conformable to his death. If we are going to die daily to self so that we can live unto Christ, these are the things that will have to go.

27
Jun
15

Knowing Jesus: The Secret to Really Living

This is the morning sermon from May 24 that I preached at Hephzibah Baptist Church in Lincolnton, GA. The text is taken from John 17:1-21 and here is a synopsis of the sermon.

Have you ever asked yourself, “What is the purpose for it all?” Stop and think about it. We are like a speck of dust on a planet that, when compared to the rest of our universe, is very, very tiny. If we stop and ask ourselves that question and don’t look to God’s word for some answers we can become downright despondent, but in Jesus’ High Priestly prayer, the prayer that He prayed just before He went to the cross, we get some clues to what living a life full of purpose is really all about. Let’s hear what God’s Word has to say in John 17:1-20. Read John 17:1-20

The verse that I want to focus on is verse 3. In that verse Jesus says, “This is life eternal, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” If we stop and take a close look at that verse there are three words that give it meaning…three words that stand out from all the rest of the words that make up that one verse of scripture. I want us to take a look at those three words.

The first important word in John 17:3 is the word, Life.

Jesus said, in verse 3 of this prayer, “This is Life…” What did He mean? Was he talking about the life that we normally live?

In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Jesus is talking here about a life that is full of purpose and meaning. He is talking about us living in such a way that at the end of the day we can look back and say, “I made a difference for God’s kingdom.”  That is the kind of life He wants us to live.

The second important word in John 17:3 is the word, Eternal.

Jesus wants us to have “Eternal” life. Well what is “Eternal” life? That is a life lived with Him that never ends.  If you ask many Christians when their eternal life begins their response will be, “When I die.” Sadly, that is indeed what many Christians believe, that you live life on this earth and then you die and go to heaven and live your “eternal life.” But Jesus helps us to understand the truth about eternal life in his meeting with Nicodemus in John chapter three.

Nicodemus came to Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

 And that is where eternal life begins. You see, doing the mundane everyday things that are required to live life on this planet, in this country, in this community, in the 21st century are the things that come with being born physically. But the things that are needed to live life in the Kingdom of God, as Jesus said to Nicodemus, only come after we are “Born Again.” That is when living life the Jesus Way should really begin, not when we die physically, but when we die to self and die spiritually as Paul talks about in Galatians 2:20 when he says, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

I am afraid that the problem we have today is that most of us don’t understand one little phrase in what Jesus told Nicodemus. We don’t understand what it means to live in “the kingdom of God.” We aren’t looking to see how our job or our classroom, or our encounters with business people in our everyday walk of life can become divine appointments that can make a difference in the life of another person and draw them into the Kingdom of God, into a love relationship with Jesus Christ.

And that brings me to the third important word in John 17:3.

The third important word in John 17:3 is the word “know.”

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

The word, know, in John 17:3 doesn’t just refer to just being casually acquainted with God and His Son, Jesus Christ. That word carries with it the same connotations as the word in Hebrew that is translated in Genesis 1 and 2 as “knew” when it says that Adam “knew” his wife, Eve, and she conceived and bore him a son. This word is talking about an intimate personal relationship.

When Jesus said that eternal life, life that is full of meaning and purpose and that builds the Kingdom of God is found in knowing the One True God and His Son Jesus Christ, whom He had sent into the world, this kind of relationship that is close and intimate and personal is what He meant. This relationship can only be with the One True God, the God of the Bible, the God of Creation, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God whose only Son came and died for you and me. It can’t be a relationship with Buddha; he’s dead. It’s not a relationship with Mohammed; he’s dead. And this relationship with God the Father only comes through Jesus. Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.”

So what about it? Do you know Him? Are you living your eternal life right now?

You can listen to the entire sermon here:

28
May
15

Changing Horses in the Middle of the Stream

There is an old saying that goes along with trying something new, plotting a new course, heading in a different direction. That old saying is that one is changing horses in the middle of the stream, and that is where I have found myself in recent days. Changing horses in the middle of a stream can be easy or difficult, depending upon the stream. If the water is shallow and the stream is flowing gently it’s a piece of cake, but if the water is deep and the stream is flowing swiftly, then the currents can be treacherous. It also depends on the horses. If the one you are currently riding is well broken in and you’re accustomed to the saddle, but your new ride is just that to you, a new ride, then things can be a little tricky.

The problem with living a life of ministry is that it is like living in a stream. You are not actually crossing the river, but riding along in the middle of it. The current is always around you pushing you onward toward your next destination. You seldom, if ever, get to dismount and take a rest. That usually only happens at key bends in the stream. Changing horses in these conditions can be tricky, but if you’ve got a good mount then everything should turn out fine.

After thirty-one years of music ministry, God has decided it’s time for me to ride another horse. It has taken a long time, but He has shown me, through many people and through many circumstances, that His desire is for me to lay down my musical gifts as the primary tool of proclamation and pick up my Bible. While I have served in pastoral roles during all these years of ministry, He is calling me now to devote my whole heart and mind to the role of being a preaching and teaching pastor. I’ll still use my music on occasion, I’m sure, but the gift of preaching/teaching is the gift He now wants me to employ, along with my pastoral care and leadership gifts. What can I say but, “Wherever He leads, I’ll go”?

So look for my blog to become quite a bit more active in these days as I share the ponderings of a church musician turned preacher. A song lyric or two will still find their way into my thoughts and hence my writings, but look for the song of God’s word to be at the forefront from now on.

I’ve had a Sunday or two to try out this new horse. He’s a pretty good ride!

23
Jul
13

The Choir as the Body of Christ

Have you ever thought about the fact that a choir is really a microcosm of the Body of Christ? In my Student Choir and Parents Round-table Meeting this past Sunday I shared these thoughts with my group:

What is Student Choir really about:

This past Sunday morning I Corinthians 12:14-20 and 27 was read as the New Testament Scripture reading for our morning worship service. I’ve added a couple of verses from that passage to give it a fuller context and it reads like this:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, 24 while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

I Corinthians 12:12-27

How does this passage apply to a choir? You should be able to see how just from listening to the passage but let me help us think about that for a moment:

It’s about having a place to belong:
12 Just as a choir, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one choir, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all gifted by one Spirit so as to form one choir—whether young or old, boys or girls, sopranos or altos, tenors or basses—and we were all given the one song to sing. 14 Even so the choir is not made up of one part or singer but of many.

It’s really about learning to depend upon one another:
15 Now if a tenor should say, “Because I am not a bass, I do not belong to the choir,” he would not for that reason stop being part of the choir. 16 And if an alto should say, “Because I am not a soprano, I do not belong to the choir,” she would not for that reason stop being part of the choir. 17 If the whole choir were a soprano, where would the harmony be? If the whole choir sang harmony, where would the melody be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the choir, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19 If they were all one part, where would the choir be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one choir.

It’s about placing value on one another:
21 The sopranos cannot say to the altos, “We don’t need you!” And the basses cannot say to the tenors, “We don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the choir that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less gifted we treat with special honor. And the members that are weak singers are treated with special respect, 24 while our strong singers need no special treatment. But God has put the choir together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the choir, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
27 Now you are the heavenly choir, and each one of you is a part of it.

Being in the Student Choir gives students the opportunity to:

Find a place to belong: learn to feel valued by one another. While it is important that I place a huge amount of value on them, nothing will take the place of the value that they place on one another.

Learn to depend upon one another: I can’t sing the parts for them. They are the choir. I am the director. If the altos have no one show up then that part does not get sung and the harmony is incomplete. The song is incomplete. The beauty is incomplete.

Learn to place value upon one another: Even to the point of stronger singers learning to value weaker ones.

The Choir is indeed a microcosm of the Body of Christ. It is one of the best examples of how this passage in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church can have application in our day and age. Are you a second soprano? Then be the best second soprano you can be. Are you a baritone? You know, you get that middle harmony that no one seems to really appreciate. You don’t get to sing those really low notes that everybody loves to hear and you don’t get to sing those high notes that soar to the stars. Just be the best baritone you can be. Then all together we will sing…

All for His Glory