What Love Is This?

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

James 1:6 (NIV)

Once again, it is time for Carols By Candlelight. Beginning in 1970, First Baptist Jackson annually shares the Gospel of Jesus Christ through music and drama.  Over the part few years, the Music and Worship Ministry has prayerfully and with intention refocused our attention to presenting the entire Story in a clear and convincing way in order to reach the lost in our community.

Since joining the Sanctuary (now Worship) Choir in 1981 just prior to Carols (talk about a “stupid sheep” – some reading this will “get that”),  my commitment was and continues to be “all in”. Some years I am better prepared spiritually and mentally (and even physically) than others but my commitment does not waiver. I believe that is how God intends you to respond when He calls you to do something. I have wished, at times, He might call me to do something else. So far, through many ups and downs, He continues to reinforce that call to serve through this ministry.

About this time each year, I wonder about a lot of things. I go to bed and get up in the morning with Ring the Bells playing in my head. I have lists and then prompts for some of those lists. I love the other members of the Production Team, but we are brutally honest with each other. And we have worked together long enough to know how to get both in and out of each other’s way. I pray through issues that likely make sense to no one other than God, me, and others in that loop – stuff like light and sound boards, curtains, stage crew needs, protection from construction and rigging accidents, protection for the people, my friends, who will walk in the dark down steps with a lighted candle – things that most folks never know about or certainly don’t think about. And for those of us who “love logistics” or are similarly gifted, that is why we do what we do.

I generally have an “ah-ha” moment when it all comes together for me.  I thought (hoped, really because of some other things going on in my life) that I would have it way before now – like when we recorded the album Glory Devine – Carols By Candlelight earlier this fall. Great experience but the “ah-ha” moment did not happen. It did happen today, however, when I opened the finished CD and started listening to it as I drove downtown. I was singing along (this IS the music we are singing next weekend) working on words and such and then I really listened to what I was singing.

The song was What Love Is This? The song, originally written and recorded by Kari Jobe, gets immediately to the heart of whatever is going on in our lives or in the lives of those around us. This line blew me away:

I see the scars upon Your hands,
and hold the truth that when I can’t You always can.
I’m standing here beneath the shadow of the cross,
I’m overwhelmed that I keep finding open arms.

He never changes. He is who He says He is. The love He gives is absolutely all I need. He gave it all for me, and made a way for me to know Him. His arms are always open. He’s all I need.

Honestly this particular “ah-ha” moment took me back to that day in 1965 when I realized during Vacation Bible School that John 3:16 was talking about me. And while I know far more about the “world” today than I did then, I know He is still all I need, all any of us need.

My prayer as we begin Carols Week 2015, is that someone who needs that same assurance, whether they recognize it or not today, understands that Jesus is all they need, too.

Again, Choosing Joy!


This Blood

Wednesday night, the Worship Choir and Orchestra were preparing for Resurrection Sunday at First Jackson. You might ask: “What was different this week?” The answer – Worship Happened. It wasn’t rote. It was for real. 10923224_10206608260072286_3815488143188405519_n

At first glance an onlooker could have thought we were just caught up in the moment. First Jackson is blessed with some pretty talented musicians – vocal and instrumental. But it was more. So. Much. More.

I have experienced this before – this really special kind of worship experience when you know in your heart that the people in the room – musician and listener – get it.  I mean really get it. As in – eternally get it.

In 2005 when the (then) Sanctuary Choir served in St. Petersburg, Russia, for a week of musical missions, there was a Sunday evening at Central Baptist Church like this. We had been cautioned (warned) by the local IMB missionary that we should not be surprised if there was no response emotionally or otherwise from the congregation.  That Sunday morning we sang in that same church and it was like “why are we here?” That night, though, oh my. The song then – Days of Elijah. Like Elijah, we are required to stand up for God. And as we were singing, a lady in the balcony to my left – on the back row – slowly stood. You could tell from watching her, she got it. Slowly, the church came to its feet – like a light cast across a dark room – they – we – worshipped. Understand we were singing in SOUTHERN ENGLISH. Most of them spoke no English and we certainly spoke no Russian. A God Thing. It was celebratory. It was fun. It was exciting. It was humbling. It was God honoring. It was worship. When the service was over, we stood around for a long time sharing fellowship with our new friends in Christ. We knew “they got it”. Frankly, for the first time as a group, we knew “we got it” as well.

Wednesday night was sort of like. It happened, however, in the Sanctuary at First Jackson. Another God thing occurred. You could sense something when we rehearsed a new arrangement to Arise My Love.  We moved on to rehearsing Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus)Forever,  Christ the Lord is Risen Today.   And then – We Believe –  “We believe that He conquered death; We believe in the resurrection; And He’s coming’ back again, we believe.” Strong stuff. Solid message. Truth shared. Reassurance. H.O.P.E.

The awesome part – it was obvious we believed what we were singing. I saw emotion and response from people in the choir who seldom (never) change their facial expression. It was amazing. It was humbling. It was worship.

I did not think it could get any better unless Jesus came right then. I.was.wrong. This Blood – I know this song – have heard it before several times but it never registered. This time it did. And it registered with the 200+ people in the choir loft. You saw it and heard it and experienced it: “There is a grave that tried to hide this precious blood that gave me life. In three days, He breathed again and rose to stand in my defense.” And because of that I am coming to tell you “He’s alive” and “to shout and to proclaim He’s coming back for you.”  Listen to it. Meditate on it.

So as we approach Sunday, April 5, 2015 – Easter Sunday – and celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior, prepare your heart. Are you willing to share with those around you that “There is a grave that tried to hide this precious blood that gave me (you) life. In three days, He breathed again and rose to stand in my (your) defense.”  Are you ready “to shout and to proclaim He’s coming back for you?”

You see, when Jesus rose from the grave and appeared to the disciples, Jesus first greeted them and then charged them: John 20:21  “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” That charge still applies to His children. 

Pray that on Sunday morning in that room, that those there “get it”. My prayer is that revival just breaks out. God knows we need it. He sent us to tell others. It is the only thing that matters.

He’s alive. I believe.

Still Choosing Joy!