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?


You Raise Me Up

Though of Northern Irish descent, have never gotten too hyped up about St. Patrick’s Day. Could be a lot of reasons for that – for sure am not into “green beer” wild parades and parties side of the celebration that tends to be what we hear most about here. That said, I have been focused on the Irish side of it more this year. That, I suspect, is based solely on our trip last fall to NI. Frankly, I’d hop on a plane and go back today if I could. To me, it was simply magical.

Since that particular trip is not a present day option, I chose to pull out the Celtic Woman playlist on my iPhone and have played every song (including Christmas ones) multiple times. Twice, my family and I experienced Celtic Woman live in concert. If I could figure out how to get to Atlanta for their April 30th gig (already have too many commitments in a short time frame), I’d likely be going again. Their musical style speaks to me. I can’t explain it. It just does.

One of my very favorites is You Raise Me Up. The link below is to their official video. Filmed in Ireland, it is the real deal. More importantly, the words go straight to the heart.

Celtic Woman – You Raise Me Up – Video Dailymotion.

As we prepare for Easter, this goes deeper. God, through His Son Jesus Christ does indeed “raise us up”. In return, what did we do? We “lifted Him up” on the cross that awful Friday so we can eternally be raised up with Him.

In John 12:27-36 (HCB), we find these words:

“Now My soul is troubled. What should I say–Father, save Me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again!”

The crowd standing there heard it and said it was thunder. Others said that an angel had spoken to Him. Jesus responded, “This voice came, not for Me, but for you. Now is the judgment of this world. Now the ruler of this world will be cast out. As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to Myself.” He said this to signify what kind of death He was about to die.

Then the crowd replied to Him, “We have heard from the scripture that the Messiah will remain forever. So how can You say, The Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” Jesus answered, “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light.” Jesus said this, then went away and hid from them.

As you prepare you heart for Easter, think about this. Are you in darkness? Do you know that The King has come and will be coming again. And when He does, will you be ready for Him to “raise you up”?

Still Choosing Joy!




When I am down and oh, my soul’s so weary
When troubles come and my heart burdened be
then I am still and wait here in the silence
until you come and sit a while with me

There is no life, no life with out its hunger
each restless heart beats so imperfectly.
But when you come and I am filled with wonder,
sometimes I think I glimpse eternity.

You raise me up so I can stand on mountains.
You raise me up to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong when I am on you shoulders.
You raise me up to more than I can be.

You raise me up to more than I can be.

First Baptist Jackson Sanctuary Choir

First Baptist Jackson Sanctuary Choir

If you have ever sung in the Sanctuary Choir at FBCJ, we want you back. If you always thought you would like to be a part of this ministry, we invite you to join us in the Choir Room at 6PM on Wednesdays. We are preparing for Sunday morning worship for the weeks leading up to Easter and will begin soon to prepare for FBCJ’s 175th Anniversary on April 28.

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!