Friday, January 30, 2009

Souper Bowl of Caring

"Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat." --Brad Smith

With that simple prayer a movement was started right in our own backyard. Twenty years ago at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church the youth group caught a vision. Since then over $50 million has been donated to soup kitchens, food banks, and other charities all across the country. Many churches also participate in a one day service blitz on the Saturday of the big game. Maybe next year we will get in on that action as well. This Sunday we will have students posted at the doors as you leave the Sanctuary or gym with soup pots. Please give generously as 100% of the donations collected will go to the Master's Table Soup kitchen here in Augusta. The beauty of the Souper Bowl is that none of the donations leave the local area. Your money goes to help your community. No matter which team you are pulling for we can all be on the same team Sunday morning! Don't forget the Super Bowl Party at 5:00!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Quick History Lesson

One of the things I love about the Old Testament and the Jewish traditions and festivals is the rich history that is told and retold. Many of the stories in the early part of the Old Testament are much older than the writings themselves. The stories were passed down orally for generations before they were ever written down. The people were commanded to share the stories with their children when they rise, when they lie down, at meal times, during special festivals and feasts, and at other sacred times of the year. Even the festivals had special meaning and marked significant events in the life of Israel. For Example, Passover is a festival to remind the people how God passed over the Israelites as he smote (great word, huh?) the first-born of the Egyptians. As Christians we also recognize Jesus as the Passover lamb. For just as God "passed over" the homes of the Israelites God also "passed over" us as Jesus sacrificed his very life on the cross for us. And the festival that we have looked at recently, the Feast of Tabernacles or the Feast of Booths, was meant to be a marker and a reminder that Yahweh provides. While the people were wandering in the wilderness they were provided with all that they needed. Got sent manna and quail, "their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet become swollen." (Neh. 9:21) The people constructed booths and lived in them for the duration of the eight day festival as a reminder that God had provided even when it seemed they had nothing to call their own. There are markers and reminders too numerous to name here. There are also spots in scripture that that tell us a lot about the history of Israel in just a small space. Nehemiah chapter 9 is one such place. Here we read a prayer that is intended as a reminder for the people of what God has done and why they are to fear (read "respect") and worship God. For us this also serves as a brief lesson of the history of Israel. Praise God for these reminders. I for one am glad they show up in random places. Aren't those the reminders that we really need anyway; those that come when we least expect them? Don't forget your Bibles on Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Disciple Now 09

Dnow registration forms are due tomorrow night. Bring them to Flood or bring them by the office. Please bring registration form, medical release form, and your cash or check made out to FBC Augusta, memo: Dnow. The dates are Feb 6-8.

Snow in Augusta!

After taking these pictures I wish I had gone out with my camera sooner! Earlier today it was snowing much harder than what is pictured here. Obviously, nothing stuck to the ground where we are but it was certainly pretty to look at. Right outside my office window is the preschool playground. It was quite a joy this morning to see the children playing in the falling snow. I bet some of them had never seen snow before. Although it was cold they were all having a wonderful time. Do you remember your first snowfall? Do you remember your favorite snowfall? I don't remember my first snowfall, but I do remember my favorite. I was in elementary school. To the best of my knowledge it may have been the only time we had for real snow in Athens while I lived there. We had sleet several times but rarely actual snow. This time we had a good three or four inches. My sister and I went down the street and joined in a neighborhood snowball fight with people who were merely acquaintences. There is something about the snow that can knock down barriers. We had the best time getting soaking wet and cold. After the fight we rolled a snowman up in our yard. I only wish I had raked the yard before the snow fell! We had a pretty trashy looking snowman with all the leaves and pine straw. Leave a comment with your favorite snow story and let's relive childhood together!

Friday, January 16, 2009

That's one long sermon!

How many times have you found yourself on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night for that matter looking at your watch and praying just this once that the minute hand would move a little, okay a lot faster? Don't be ashamed; we've all done it. In preparation for next Wednesday's message I was reading through Nehemiah 5-8. In these chapters we read about the completion of the wall and the gathering of the people back to Jerusalem after the exile. As a part of this gathering Nehemiah had Ezra bring the Book of the Law to be read to the people. He did this so the people who had been scattered about for generations would be reminded of their heritage and the laws that they are to follow. Chapter 8 of Nehemiah tells us that Ezra read from the Book of the Law from daybreak until noon. And what is more? The people were standing the whole time out of reverence for the Law! Not only did they listen to the Law being read for 5 or 6 hours while they were standing, but they were convicted. We continue reading in Nehemiah that Nehemiah, Ezra, and Levites who were teaching the people from the Law and interpreting what it meant had to chide the people not to weep and mourn. They reminded them that this was a great day in the Lord, "Be Still, for this is a sacred day. Do not grieve."

Then, the next day they came back and did it all over again. But, this time they read about the festival of booths. The people went and gathered branches with which to make their booths. They proclaimed among the hillsides that they were celebrating a festival in Jerusalem. During the festival the people of Jerusalem lived in their booths as a reminder of the 40 years that Israel spent in the desert with Moses. They festival lasted for eight days. For every one of those days the people gathered to hear from the Book of the Law. This is an example of a people being rejuvinated for the Lord. Since the time of Joshua son of Nun (Moses successor) the festival had not been celebrated like this. The people are glad to be back in the homeland and able to celebrate the festival the way it was intended. That's one long sermon that turned into one great revival!

I pray that as these uncertain economic times have befallen us we may turn back to the Book just like the people of Jerusalem did. May we read the word with fresh eyes. This is our time to realize some of the things that we have neglected. Let us not circle the wagons and take care of our own. Rather let us be reminded that we are to be the Light in this dark world. May we recognize those who are hurting around us. As Allen Walworth reminded us, now is the time for the church to "be about my Father's business." It is during these times that we, God's people, should be reminded of God's provision for us, be reminded that all we have is not our own, and be reminded that we should hold loosely those things we have always being ready to let it go as God sees fit. May this word challenge your heart as we seek together to Do Hard Things...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Do Hard Things...

So, another trip to Nashville provides ample opportunity to read in the car. No, I don't read while I drive. I usually let my wife read to me while I drive. That has become our practice over the last few months. And this trip was no different. On the way to Nashville we read a great little book written by a friend of ours, Randy Winton, called "My Daddy's Shoes." It is an inspirational book about being present and available to your children. It also emphasizes the importance of being a model of godly living for your children. I can only imagine that one of my hard things will be living up to the image of father that my children will want me to be. But, that is a topic for another time... After spending the week at a Children's Pastors' Conference we came home today and I gave Becca a break. While she rested most of the way home I listened to an audio book that I had purchased earlier in the week. This book was written by two 19- year old twin brothers. It is called Do Hard Things. Alex and Brett Harris are crying out against the low expectations that the world has for teenagers today. The basic premise is that for too long adolescents and kidults have done just enough to skate by because that is all they were expected to do. The challenge is for teens to become rebelutionaries, that is to be ones who rebel against the rebellion that is so often associated with the years 13-19 (perhaps now up to the mid- to late 20s). The brothers list example after example of opportunities that they and many others have had to show the adults around them that they are tired of living in a low expectation world. I was encouraged to know that there are many teenagers in our country and around the world that not only want to make a difference, but expect to do so. I have said this before and would like to take this opportunity to say it again here, "people will rise to the expectations that you have for them." That is why I have made the challenge that I have this year. I expect the students at First Baptist Church Augusta, GA to do something great! We have looked at many problems that our world is facing including but not limited to modern-day slavery, poverty, starvation, forced prostitution, and child mortality. In case the challenge is not clear or perhaps the problems listed this way still seem insurmountable let me echo the Harris' and say: "Do hard things!" At Flood this week we will begin studying about a young man who did just that. His name is Nehemiah and you can find his story in the good book. Let me encourage you to familiarize yourself with Nehemiah chapters 1-4 for this Wednesday. Press on!