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!

Cille

Cacophony

No – I did not make this word up. Yes – it is a word that my sister just younger than I would have asked my Mom to make me stop saying when I was a kid (she would call it a “fifty-cent word”).

Cacophony per Merriam-Webster means “a harsh or discordant sound.” And frankly during Carols especially when sight-reading and even more so when brass players sight-read something really difficult such as the arrangement of Procession of the Kings we are singing this year. I am not being critical of our brass playing friends – I played low brass (trombone) from 6th grade through my years at Ole Miss. I read music. The stuff they are reading looks like some weird foreign language to me!

By the time rehearsal ended last night, the brass players had it worked out (again – seems like a foreign language to me)! It is a majestic processional of the wise men as they present themselves to the Savior.

Still the first playing stayed with me. Compared to the worship of Holy, Holy, Holy, the wonder of Silent Night, and the singing of a lullaby of hope by the earthly parents to this Boy who is King in Someday, it just caught me off guard.

I have thought today that the worship, wonder, and hope of heaven is in such sharp contrast to the chaos of hell. Cacophony is the music of Satan. Chaos in our lives – regardless of its source – is of the devil. Through chaos, however, God can refines us if we allow it. How we react when the cymbals are clanging and fires are raging and people are hurting and discord tries to overwhelm us, is what people remember about us.

Tonight we will share with a number of people who may work for First Jackson, as well as others, who may know about Jesus but do not know Him in a personal way. More likely, they see the way we treat each other and how we use (abuse) the resources that are at our disposal. If not careful, we present a very mixed message, a chaotic one, a cacophony.

Some thirty-three years after His birth in Bethlehem, Jesus faced chaos unlike any we will ever face. He knew He was going to die for each one of us. His hope was in His knowing that God was with Him. His faith spoke volumes. He was the calm in the middle of a storm unlike any we have known.

Matthew 27:24 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Surely He is the Son of God. He changed me. He lives in me. May I live in such a way that every minute of every day others will see Jesus in me.

Still Choosing Joy

Cille

New Jerusalem

I have challenged myself to study a different scripture each day during Carols Week that explains the text of one of the songs in The Hope of Christmas. (Sanctuary Choir members – as you prepare for this week, I challenge you to do the same.) It is so important that we internalize what we are sharing through music and drama.

I started with what I already know will be my favorite song – New Jerusalem. Catherine Carter Sledge is the soloist (and Choir President) and sang this during worship on December 1.  During Carols, this is toward the end of the concert but oh how it ties everything we are sharing together.

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:2, 27 NIV)

Honestly – these verses just scratch the surface.  Read the entire chapter. Verse 4 is one of my all time favorites and reminds us that in heaven the tears are gone – no need for them ever again. Think about it.

 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4 NIV)

God goes to great lengths to describe the Holy City – this New Jerusalem.  Elaborate is a gross understatement. Most importantly, He addresses how pure it is.  And He seals it with the reminder that to live there, your name must be found in the “Lamb’s book of life.”

God provided that Lamb. Do you know Him? Have you found The Hope of Christmas?

 

The Hope of Christmas

I seem to always get back to blogging around Carols.  I think it is because the deeper I get into the details (sort of just have my head above water now), the more I pray, the more I read my Bible, the more I think about what Jesus expects of me.  I know. I know. My spiritual journey is a 365 X 24 experience and should always be at an elevated level. After all, Jesus did not die for me for this intense six-week period every year. He died for me. Period. End of discussion.

Anyway, today, I found this article from Grace Communion International  when I was surfing the web. The title of the article is Why Jesus Gives Us Hope.  This paragraph really struck home: “God started in the smallest possible way—as an embryo in a virgin. Behold, I will give you a sign, he had said through Isaiah. A virgin will conceive and bring forth a child, and you will name him Immanuel, which means “God with us.” But he was first called Jesus — the Hebrew name Yeshua, which means, God will save us.””

We are all in need of the Savior. God sent Jesus to save us – to fill our lives with hope. Think about it – that little Baby did change everything. Because God loved us, He gave us Hope. And as Romans 5:5 says, “and hope does not disappoint..” The Hope we are sharing this Carols is the Hope that is only found in Jesus Christ. Pray about this – this Hope that is within you. Pray, too, that others who are coming to Carols and those in your circle of influence will see the Hope of Jesus in you.

I struggle to keep “the main thing the main thing” as Dr. Pollard used to say.  I tend to get wrapped up in the details of “who did what?” or “whose responsibility is that?” or “no, you can’t do that?” I even lose my cool (imagine that!) when the frustration level rises. Guess what. God is NOT honored by any of that.

Many have heard my story of what I remember as one of the first Carols in the new (existing) Sanctuary.  Somehow they used to know where folks were seated in the Sanctuary  based on the decision cards – I guess the ushers marked the collection bags by section.  In this particular case, the card came from a guy in the balcony – the section that is now behind the big screens. Even in those days they were not the most desirable seats.  When folks from FBCJ followed up after Carols, we learned this young man died a few days after he checked that card stating that he had prayed to receive Christ – a car wreck – life here done but Life Eternal assured. And God WAS honored because that young man’s life was saved for all eternity.

I hope to meet that fellow in heaven one day. I want to tell him thank you for inspiring me some 20+ years later to stay the course and be the encourager and help keep our focus on why we are doing this. If we forget why or do it just to do it, then the devil wins. I can assure you, God does not intend that (says so all through scripture beginning in Genesis) and neither do I.

The article goes on to say: “Luke tells us that the angels sang when Jesus was born. It was a moment of triumph, even though humans couldn’t see it that way. The angels knew that victory was certain, because God had told them so.” We have that same certainty because Jesus told us so.

“This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:12-14

Hope

Hope
Hope

Sometimes I can’t decide whether I am a “sunrise” or “sunset” kind of person. Tonight, the choice was “sunset”.  As we left the place we had dinner, the sky was beautifully pink (a most excellent color if you are a BC survivor). As we crossed the Reservoir coming home, this was our view. I needed this. It has been a busy, confusing, fun, and emotional past few weeks. All that leaves you tied up in knots. Focusing on the hope that Christ alone gives us, brings me back around.

I went to my 40th high school class reunion. It was more fun than I ever hoped or imagined. Maybe maturity brings us all in line – who knows. But I enjoyed all of it. Saw two friends (married to each other) from childhood that I know I have not seen in 20 years. The visit was great and with Annah, especially, was deep. Four days later, she moved from this life to Heaven, the victim of a massive heart attack. Clark and her children (and her many friends) need and are sustained by His hope.

I was reminded that life is far too short to just make passing gestures toward those you love. I have also been reminded of the impact of a life well lived as I have read and heard the wonderful things many have shared about her impact on their lives. I believe with all my heart, that when face-to-face with Jesus, He said “Well done, Annah.”

On the other side of all this is new life. Friends who have waited a long time for an adoption match, brought home a baby girl in May. Another couple brought home a baby girl TODAY! And yet another couple got word they have matched and the baby is due in October. Still another couple close to my heart brought home an older girl and she is already a part of our hearts and family. Hope. Sustains. Hope. Fulfills. Hope.

Vance Havner summed up the ups and downs on life this way. He said, there are five words you are never to forget no matter the circumstance. Those words: “For this I have Jesus.” Hope.

Romans 5:1-5 (NIV) is one of the best passages on hope that I know: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.