One of the most-sung Christmas hymns of our time is O Come All Ye Faithful. It showcases the sacred need for worship. It says for us to “sing in exultation” and to “come,” “behold,” and “adore” Christ the Lord. To do as the song says, we must gather to worship. This song is a call for corporate worship reminding us there is tremendous power when people get together to praise Jesus’ name. Worshipping corporately while singing Christmas carols really is the secret sauce to making Christmas so holy. And that’s exactly what this Advent season is about for us: worshipping our newborn king together. When you dig into the pages of the Christmas story, we even see this truth rhythmically expressed in scripture. From Mary at her cousin’s house to Simeon in the Temple and the Shepherds in the field, each in their own unique way, worship God for the gift of Jesus through singing songs. It really is magical to study what is sung surrounding the birth narratives of Jesus. So this Christmas, come worship with us. In so doing, we will experience something even deeper than the rhythmic energy we feel from holiday hits. We’ll experience the power that surrounded our newborn king 2000 years ago.
Marketers know what they’re doing. They know how to grab the audience’s attention. This is mainly because they’ve figured out how to make us think deeply about “my story.” And the truth is, they’re not wrong. We should think deeply about our own individual stories, because the story you bring with you into the world matters. At First Baptist, we believe this so much that we label “My Story” as the first of three Divine levels of engagement. “My Story” is the place that holds my gifts, my insights, my experiences, and my abilities to affect change in the world. The Holy Spirit dwells at this level inside each of us and helps us to hear what God is calling us to do and be as a person. Of course, this isn’t the only way God interacts with us. The other two levels are labeled “Our Story” and “The Story.” To have a healthy “Our Story” and to fully participate in God’s ultimate “The Story,” we need to think deeply about our own individual stories. This task is not easily done. Sometimes we do not see what God sees because we get caught listening to the wrong marketers. Sometimes we believe when the world tells us, “We aren’t good enough unless we prove otherwise.” To help push against the world’s marketing strategy, this Epiphany, we will zoom into key scripture passages where we all can find a better narrative. By seeing these texts through fresh eyes, we’ll be able to find where we fit within God’s story and then give us a roadmap for living a better My Story.
Peter is one of the most prolific characters in the Bible. In some ways he is a “bull in a China shop” but in other ways he is a devout, charismatic leader who starts the entire construct we know as church. To put it bluntly, “Peter is complicated.” He denies Jesus but is also the first to cut off a man’s ear to defend Jesus. He argues that he’s the greatest and even attempts to walk on water, but he is also the only person Jesus refers to as Satan. He’s complicated. But a robust character study shows that he is crucial to understanding the gospel and how God engages humanity. As a matter of fact, Peter is the perfect example of why we teach the Divine Levels of Engagement. At First Baptist, we believe God comes to us all in three divine, yet differing, levels we title as “My Story. Our Story. The Story.” This framework is essential learning for anyone looking to grow in faith. In both practical and spiritual ways, we are very much like Peter and have faith stories that mimic his experiences in the text. To help showcase this truth, this November we will look at God’s Divine Levels of Engagement with Peter and show how they are like ours.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus eats, a lot. He eats with sinners, tax collectors, disciples, women, out-of-towners, Pharisees, scribes, prostitutes, and crowds. He even tells stories about people eating together. There is no way Luke unintentionally includes all of these meal scenes with all of these types of people and all of these lessons. Who Jesus eats with (and what he says to them while eating) is one of the most important details in all of the Gospel of Luke, and it is worth our time to study. What I can say on the front end is meals matter. How we dine and who we dine with matter. The type of people Jesus dines with should scream out how radical and inclusive his love was. He ate with everyone . . . even those who thought of him as an enemy. The topics he discusses are incredible too. He challenges the sacredness of the law, our need propensity for pride, and who is the greatest. He talks in depth about sin and love and even demonstrated God’s love through holy communion around the table. By studying these table topics, we will draw closer to some of the deepest truths in all of life as well as learn how to practice them in our own lives. Join us in September and October as we sit around the table and study the timeless topics and teachings of Jesus. This is a sermon series you will find yourself going back to time and time again as if it’s your favorite meal. There’s a lot to chew on in this series, and we’re going to dig in to the Gospel of Luke together. We look forward to seeing you at First Baptist.
How do people know we're Christian? Seriously. What tips them off? What about your life just screams, “This looks like Jesus”? There are a lot of ways to answer this question but the most obvious is, “by the good fruit we bear.” In Galatians, Paul gives us a great list of which fruit should be birthed into the world because of our actions. We know this list as the Fruit of the Spirit, and they include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness/generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. To help dig deep into this list, our summer sermon series is looking at each one of these fruits by examining how Scripture shows us we can learn to grow it better and with more regularity. Every word in this list is significant; our individual and corporate lives need to be producing all nine of them regularly. And if one or more fruits isn’t producing, then we’ll know where our attention needs to be placed. In short, the world will know we're Christian by the “fruit we bear.” Join us this summer as we learn how to continually produce good fruit.
“A person will be called to account on Judgement Day for every permissible thing he might have enjoyed . . . but did not.” - Talmud This quote is an old rabbinic teaching found in the Talmud. It’s gold. Just run with this thought for a minute: We will be judged for not enjoying life. We often associate our fate by what we do and the actions we take. But what about the things we don’t do and the actions we don’t take? Could we be called into account for those? This new sermon series isn’t about our final Judgment Day, but it is very much about the things we might be missing, or at least searching for up until our Judgment Day . . . and that thing is joy. Joy is the bedrock of sustained faith. It’s deeper and weightier than happiness. It doesn’t dismiss or overlook or sidestep the pain of life; it actually consoles it. It lays at the bottom (or underneath or just beyond) the pain cycles we experience. Joy is the secret ingredient that we need in order to live faithfully as a Christian. This truth emerged for Paul as he wrote Philippians from a jail cell. Paul was in touch with his pain; he understood the fragility of life and accepted the fact that he may not make it out of prison alive. It’s why he so famously says, “to die is to gain.” You can hear his joy coming through despite his pain. So how do we live with this joy? How do we discover and claim it for ourselves? We have to work through our pain to get to joy. To avoid pain is to revert back to a toxic positivity that lands on the shallow realities of happiness or leaves us in the dry and weary land of despair. What we’re called to do as Christians is work through our pain in order to find the depths of joy on the other side.
Jesus dies on Good Friday and comes alive on Easter Sunday. This reality means we now live in a world where death isn’t the final sting. Hope outshines despair, and our lives (individual and collective) are forever changed. We now live in a world in which people (through faith) can also come alive. And we need to learn to lean in to this new truth. To help aid in this truth, our sermon series looks at the scenes that immediately surround Jesus’ resurrection and pays attention to the ways in which those who meet the resurrected Jesus come alive in their own ways. Each of the characters sees a deepening, a change. They awaken spiritually and come alive to the mission of God or to unconditional love or to service, and this awakening comes packaged with purpose and hope. The same is true for us. This Eastertide, we will see how the same resurrected Jesus comes to us. The same purpose and hope awaits us still. It’s time we (as a people, as a church, as a world) come alive in Christ.
Today is Palm Sunday. The day rumors spread throughout the city. You aren’t going to believe who’s coming to town! Families stumble over themselves to prepare. Women grab cloaks . . . men cut palms . . . kids organize confetti. City officials sweep the Temple Mount and clean the streets. His presence demands it. His followers will love it. You aren’t going to believe who’s coming to town!
Some people need a sign from God that they are following the right path. Others listen for a word or a voice. Christ came to bless and give “abundant life” to all of creation, but there are times we are slow to believe it. The Writer of the Gospel of John records, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31). During the liturgical season of Lent, join us as we journey through five of the seven "signs" (miracles) recorded in John on a path leading us to the celebration of Christ's resurrection on Easter.