Service of Remembrance

The Lord's Supper Painting

Sunday marks the beginning of the week that Christians call Holy. It begins with Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem where he was hailed as a conquering hero. It ends with the ultimate and ultimately unexpected triumphs over sin and death’ the resurrection. But a lot happened between those two bookends. One of those was the supper he shared with his disciples on Thursday of that week.

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Spiritual Formation Doesn’t Happen in Absent Community

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In this week’s edition of the FBC E-News, you will find a blog by Captain Randy Deering. Randy has been brought aboard – no pun intended, so I’ll leave it in anyway – to help us expand the breadth, width, and depth of our small group ministry. Simply put, no matter what we do in other areas of church life, we will forever be limited or unleashed by the degree and manner to which we involve people beyond the morning worship.

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The Road to Blessing

Sermon On The Mount

Preaching through the Beatitudes has gotten me to thinking a lot about the whole concept of blessing. After all, Jesus kicked off his preaching ministry by offering blessings in spades. So it is no surprise, then, that the faithful over the years have raised hearts and voices asking for and appreciating the outpouring of God’s bounty upon us. “Showers of Blessing” kind of resounds that idea. So does “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow.” “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” We need them. He has them. Say please and thank you. Just seems right. And if we don’t think about it much, it seems easy. But it’s not.

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Searching for Happiness

Books

Just for kicks, I went to one of my favorite cyber haunts, bn.com. That’s Barnes and Noble, one of the last standing bookstore chains in America, and the source of more books and ideas than the law allows. The day I discovered I could go from “that looks interesting” to “that’s ready to read on my iPad,” true danger emerged. The curious meaning-monger in me can go on book binges without leaving my couch or desk. And by the brilliance of web browser “cookies,” they always seem to know how to recommend something that, if not always on my mind, at least had been recently. Clever marketing – clever like crack to an idea-chaser like me.

Since I’m preaching on “Living Happy in a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” I entered “happiness” into the cue. Eight thousand, two hundred and three book suggestions later, I was back where I started. Thousands of derivations on a theme preached on a Galilean hillside two thousand years ago still can’t say it any better. “Blessed are” followed by the principles that precede the promise. And judging by the titles and themes on my cursory product reviews, we seem a lot further from it now than then.

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Act Justly

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In speaking to God’s people about the inequities of his day, the prophet Micah posed a timeless question – “What does the Lord require of you?” If you were asked that question off the cuff you may come up with a myriad of worthwhile behaviors, activities, and pursuits. The old prophet just gave us three, and they are three pretty good ones. Act justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God.

As Christians, we have taken this admonition more or less seriously through the years. You could make the case that walking humbly with our God is a call to a life of worship and devotion. We have done more than most over the centuries to love mercy and do the acts of charity that mercy call for. But what about that justice thing? What is it? How do you do it? It is an individual or corporate reality. All good questions.

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Our Music Ministry Leadership

From my first day at FBC, almost a year ago, I have been more than pleased with the music and worship portion of our church’s life. Credit for this flows in many directions. First Baptist has a history of musical excellence that goes back for generations. Dozens of people lend their voices and musical talents to lift our people to meaningful worship each Sunday. While there has a long line of gifted leaders, I have been blessed to work with the remarkable team of Chris Culpepper and Dawne Eubanks.

For some time, I have been in conversations with Dawne and Chris regarding the direction of our music ministry leadership. The arrangement we have had before and since I arrived has served us well, especially during the time of interim and the merging of the two services into one. The two of them have worked well together and each have obvious gifts and loyal followers. I would go so far as to say that that particular area of ministry is our strongest in terms of talent, participation, and its impact on the life of our church. However, there are seasons to every leadership scenario, and this is no exception.

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Living Happy in a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Living in a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

I remember the movie as a kid on the Friday night late show – WCTV Tallahassee – “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” I was a toddler and Lisa was a newborn when it hit the silver screen in 1963, so we kind of missed that premiere. But I caught it in serendipitous snippets over the years, before TCM, Netflix, and the like made it available on-demand. The cast was an endless line of Hollywood who’s who in mid-twentieth century comedy. Couldn’t assemble a comedy crew like that today. It would cost too much and they don’t exist. The story line was basic: a bunch of interesting characters race cross-country in pursuit of stolen money. The laughs were gut wrenchers if silly was your thing. Tell a good story, let funny people be funny, don’t take it all too seriously and you just have a little fun. And learn a little about the best and worst of human nature.

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Turning the Page

I couldn’t resist taking one more picture of our Georgia home as we closed it up and prepared to hand the keys – and mortgage – to its new owners. The sun was setting over the meadow beyond the second-floor veranda; a fitting metaphor. We had pulled out of that neighborhood to begin our new sunshine laden life in the spring. We didn’t expect it to feel like spring again when we finally sold the home place, but it did. A Delta pilot and his about to be bride got a great deal on our home, and we hope they feel as blessed and as happy as we did on Overlook Pass Road. The look in her eyes told us they probably will.

It was a weekend with several lines on the agenda. We signed our part of the closing documents – theirs took place about the time I was teaching Wednesday night. Afterward, Lisa insisted we celebrate by climbing Stone Mountain to survey the landscape of our life for the better part of two decades. We spent Saturday afternoon greeting friends and celebrating the impending birth of the baby girl Jordan and Anna have prayed and prepared for for so long. I spent that morning with my former staff and deacons and then we managed to hit all three worship services on Sunday. Lisa was glad to finally hear some good preaching from my friend Greg DeLoach. After hugging a few hundred necks we ate fried chicken prepared with love by our friends at Milo’s, just as we did on our so-long Sunday last March. Pretty full four days.

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Ministry of Presence

Often the most significant ministries of the church are quiet ones, reflective of the personality and spirit of the one carrying them out. Like an Olympic diver, the best attempts to serve are the ones that make the least amount of splash. Some folks never get that, and others just come by it naturally. Today, I want to point to one of those.

Three weeks ago, a series of tornadoes ripped a path through Southwest Georgia. That area was near my family home, and one of the hardest-hit sites was Albany, where we lived and served for nearly eight years. When disaster comes, two of the first groups to show up ready to help are the Red Cross and Disaster Relief workers from Baptist churches around the country. Our very own Kelvin Foster is a chaplain affiliated with both and was deployed for the better part of two weeks. On his Facebook page he posted pictures of the destruction with the simple phrase “no words.” Yesterday I talked with a friend delivering loads of supplies to the region. He said the same things. You just can’t capture the breadth and depth of the carnage of property, communities, lives, and families. But what you can do is come along beside it, roll up your sleeves, and offer what help you can. That’s what Kelvin did.

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Good Things

In the course of a given week, a lot of good things happen around here. Some are obvious and easy to see. Others are more subtle, less noticeable, but just as significant. Let me paint you a couple of pictures to illustrate what I’m talking about.

First, wasn’t it a wonderful Sunday with Gary Chapman as our special guest? It’s not everyday that a church gets to host someone who has influenced literally millions of lives and families. He does a magnificent job of bringing healthy family models under the umbrella of God’s ideal for sacred relationships. I am grateful that we were able to secure his presence with us during his west Florida fling. And I loved his message that challenged us to be intentional with the most important relationships in our lives. “The Family You’ve Always Wanted” is not just a book title, it is a worthy and attainable quest that God both honors and helps.

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