Amazing Love

Baby in the Manger – Holy Holy Holy

Carols 2012 – Amazing Love – in planning and execution for months – was experienced by literally thousands this past weekend. Five worship opportunities (not performances or concerts) were shared over three days with over 15,000 people in person and over the web with countless more. Folks are still watching the archived links. Others will watch edited versions for broadcast later this month during scheduled times and for the first time, from Comcast On Demand. 

Adoration of the King – Joy! Joy!

 Most every year, I think it cannot get more personal, more intensely spiritual. I was, again, wrong this year. It was so obvious God was, and still is, at work among the players (choir, orchestra, crew, actors, staff, ushers, security folks). Like the instruments in the orchestra, we are instruments in His Hand.

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Sets the theme of Amazing Love

 In the span of less than 90 minutes, the Gospel was clearly presented five times. We know already that folks came from miles away to worship with us; that an individual in Nevada viewed online as did one of of the partner mission churches in England. More important, I know specifically of three professions of faith and expect we will confirm there were others. There were countless seeds planted.

Carol to the King (processional)

I know God was there – for one thing, the devil was working overtime for over two weeks throwing roadblocks at the organ, through UPS, killing a lighting console, dishing out the flu and other illnesses, among other things.  But, man oh man, did God ever empower the “over-comers”. From the time of arrival Friday night until the last person left after break down Sunday night, God’s instruments were empowered and were giving spiritually, emotionally, musically with an intensity unlike any I have experienced in my prior 31 Carols’ experiences. I am still in awe. I am still wondering how this will play out in the days to come. I am still wondering how God will continue to use us.

Light of the Stable – Ballet Magnificat

These are just some of the photos from the weekend. They are the work of Lane and Judy Rushing, members of FBCJ and two of the many volunteers (Lane – sound; Judy – fabric work for the set).  These photos capture the essence of our sharing.


O How He Loves You and Me    

The scene above was the one that constantly got to me – Mary – the same Mary who held the Christ Child at birth, also held Him in death – yet that was not the end, as the words to Be Born in Me state:

All this time we’ve waited for the promise,  
All this time You waited for my arms.
Did You wrap yourself inside the unexpected
So we might know that Love would go that far?
Be born in me.
Be born in me.
Trembling heart, somehow I believe that You chose me.
I’ll hold You in the beginning, You will hold me in the end.
Every moment in the middle, make my heart your Bethlehem.
Be born in me.
Sunday morning during worship, Dr. Page shared from Revelation 3:1-6. The passage is about the Church at Sardis and is summed up in verse 1. “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.”  He talked about about people who “appear” alive on the exterior – who go through the motions of church or Carols or other because we have always gone through the motions – but who are dead on the inside spiritually. We have to be alive on the inside for it to be real (Dr. P stated that far more eloquently). God has to live in our hearts. We must have and then share His Amazing Love. This passage goes on to say in verse 3: “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.” In other words, get yourself together spiritually, repent, and be His instrument.
Dr. Page also shared this passage from Hosea 10:12 (NASB) – seems to me that this passage really is the charge to us once we repent as He commanded the Church at Sardis: “Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accordance with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on you.” Sow. Reap. Seek.
Our job is not complete. The charge to us is clear. His Amazing Love still is to be shared with many.
I believe. God with us!
Still Choosing Joy!


God Provided the Lamb

Well, we are here. Opening Day for Carols 2012. As I walked through parts of the Sanctuary this morning dealing (again) with lights that have come loose, I prayed for the participants that our hearts are prepared. If we do not share our beliefs, then what is the point of all this. I then prayed for the people who will be sitting in those seats and especially in the most remote parts of that room. The overflow goes behind the video boxes and they will watch on the monitor though they will hear everything live. Can we give from our hearts what is required for those folks with the “not so hot seats” to understand the Message?

I think back every year to a Carols during the first few years we were in the new (current) Sanctuary. Wen the weekend was over and decision envelopes were being handled, one was found in the collection sack from the north balcony in the area that is now behind the video boxes. In those days you could see the platform from that point but, still, not prime seating. The young man had checked the box to indicate he had prayed to receive Christ as His Savior. On follow up, we learned he had died within days in a car wreck. The lesson to me then and now is that one life for Eternity is worth everything that we pour into Carols. God provided the Lamb for that young man.

I am caught up in the story of Abraham and Issac. if your are listening carefully, this story is part of Dr. Page’s narration. “Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.”(Genesis 22:13 NIV). Abraham and Issac obeyed and God substituted that ram for Issac. God provided a substitute. Yet when it came to His Only Son, His Son was the substitute for us – me, you, all of us. No ram in the thicket. Just Jesus. Only Jesus.

Last night, a former choir member who is working out of town this week shared by text from where she was having dinner in southern California. A musician was playing in the background and was intermingling Christmas songs among his other pieces. He played several secular pieces and then played “Silent Night” and the manager of the establishment stopped him after the first verse. How very sad. How grateful I am for the singer who at least tried to sing this. How I know that God provided the Lamb for the manager of that establishment just as He did for the young man whose life ended in tragedy. Through the media options we have these days, I can only pray that manager might hear His Story via the web or our broadcast or by other means. And I pray for those coming this weekend who need the Savior – who need to hear the story of His Amazing Love.

God is with us. I believe.

Still choosing Joy!


Be Born In Me

Every year for Carols there seems to be a new song (or at least new to me) that totally frames His Story and the message we are trying to convey. This year, that song is “Be Born In Me and is being sung with such conviction by a young mom named Brittyne Aven.

The lyrics are haunting. Mary is praying, grieving almost as she begins pouring out her heart. Her question: “If God is pleased with me, why am I so terrified?”

And as she prays, she comes to terms with what she has to do. Failure to obey is not an option. She gives all that she has to offer – a vacancy in her heart that will be filled with her love for the Child of God!

Mary explores with wonder why the Son of God would do this – “wrap Yourself inside the unexpected so we might know that love would go that far.” Mary gets it that “we” includes her. Do you get it? If not you have missed the point of His coming and dying (death on the cross for me and for you and for Mary). She sums His Story up so beautifully when she acknowledges: “I will hold you in the beginning. You will hold me in the end. Be born in me.”

Peter got it. Toward the conclusion of His earthly ministry, Jesus asked His disciples who people thought he was. They gave varying answers – teacher, prophet. The Christ directly asked Peter that question (Matthew 16:15-16): “But what about you? Who do you say that I am?” Peter’s response: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” With that acknowledgement, Peter was stating “be born in me”.

Barbara Hamilton is our gifted drama director for Carols and other programs. A more humble individual and servant I have never met. As I watched a lighting run through yesterday, the lighting set for “Be Born In Me” came up. In the scrim box above the choir loft was Barbara, attending to the manger that is used from that location during the processional, thus an unrelated scene for that number. She folded clothes and prepared that “prop” as if she were Mary preparing the manger for the newborn King. Barbara, like Peter, gets it. The King for Eternity has been born in her. Her life reflects His Amazing Love. Does yours?

Still Choosing Joy!


Hot and Cold

Hot and Cold

Once again, it is here, “Carols Week”.  The more of these we do (this is 32 for me), the faster they seem to come.  The preparation is coming together and we have already had a series of rehearsals over the weekend that prepped various aspects of the program prior to joining the full choir tonight and then orchestra tomorrow night. It is a really fun week and can have, as well, some extreme elements of “S T R E S S”!

On the “not so amusing” side of this, Satan is operating at full tilt.  Do this long enough and you know that Satan has special means for inhabiting (inhibiting?) electronic equipment. This past weekend, for example the light panel died, the organ died, a specific light focused on the organ pipe work went out, microphones during Sunday worship went nuts.  Whooboy. Stuff that we use in worship every week!

Folks have been sick/are sick. Seems to be a special set of afflictions causing vertigo, sending grandkids to the hospital, and back problems.   All of these – the electronic issues and the health issues, we are bathing in prayer and will continue to do so.

I personally believe that God has something really special in store for us and for those we will share the story of Amazing Love with this weekend. Satan is way too busy for that not to be the case. And knowing that, we must be ready. Very ready. Totally “Committed to the Call”.  As Lavon shared yesterday, our prayers and spiritual preparation must be such that every time any of us and certainly when our guests enter here this weekend that it is evident from the moment we walk through the door that God’s hedge is securely in place because we have prayed and are prepared to share His Gospel to many.

One other thing, in our preparation, it would be good to look at the Lord’s words to the Church at Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22).  The most compelling verses in this passage are 15 and 16 where the Church is warned about been being lukewarm: 

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I would that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.”
Wow. Nothing amazing about that. For certain nothing amazing about our being cold for Christ because that accomplishes nothing for Him. But for God to prefer we are cold rather than lukewarm (a term that can also be a cover for being half-hearted in our commitment, compromising in our beliefs, failing to stand firm, not being prepared musically or spiritually) is a direct hit to the heart. His Heart.

This scene from the Crucifixion is part of Carols 2012. While at no time in the program is this scene superimposed over the manager, it struck me last night during rehearsal that this photo captures it all. That was nothing lukewarm about Mary and her commitment or Joseph and his as God used them to set the stage for His Son to come down to earth.  And there was certainly nothing lukewarm about Jesus’ commitment as He was nailed to that tree.

Amazing Love – His love for me.

Still choosing joy!




The weeks leading up to Carols Week (which this year begins Saturday, December 1), can honestly only be described as organized chaos. This year has certainly been no exception. You see, when we get into “Carols Mode”, Satan goes on overtime inhabiting everything from UPS trucks to schedules to microphones to the flu and cases of vertigo and surgeries and even cracks in parking lots which cause folks to stumble and be injured. The more that happens, the more convinced I am that the telling of His Story is the most important task given to us to do.

The photo above pulls together snippets of activities occurring since detailed preparation for Amazing Love began in August. Rest assured, this in no way captures everything and particularly not the meetings where everything from music to ticket distribution to processional concepts to lighting plans to greeter organization to set design to auditions for kids to whatever occurred or the long nights of mounting/programming lights or attempting to visualize how to get the choir comfortable thus confident in the loft. 

 Nor does the collage capture the hours of prayer, of listening, of sharing through personal invitation the reaching out to folks to come and celebrate with us – not to celebrate the “holiday season”; rather to celebrate our Living Savior! As I have said before, in professional terms, it is a “project”. But it is oh so much more.

For out of this chaos, we clearly and with passion tell the Story that can only come from the hearts of believers in Christ, a story that is so different and filled with awe and wonder and even chaos (look up Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion) that it cannot help but be true. We love to tell this story, His Story, and through the telling, show others that Jesus, is indeed, the One who is our peace.

Years ago during Carols preparation, I chose Micah 4:5a as “my verse” for Christmas. This verse goes with me no matter what. More importantly, in context of the entire passage, this verse is the summary statement in the prophecy of Christ’s coming to us, a prophecy, we know, has been fulfilled.

I pray as we move forward through the next ten days and the follow up work beyond  that we will rest in His Peace and be embraced by His Amazing Love.

Still Choosing Joy!