First Baptist Church St. Simons Island

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Constant Hope

Romans 15:13

Merriam Webster Dictionary defines hope as “to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true.”

We have developed a close relationship with hope through our marriage. Last Christmas was very special for us. It was our first Christmas as parents. For many years we found ourselves hoping God would bless us with a child. We wanted children so badly and the holidays made their absence even more pronounced. We would decorate and discuss how much joy a child would bring to our home especially during the holiday season. We would watch parents enjoy their children climbing on Santa’s lap or picking out a Christmas tree and we would hope. We have often turned to scripture through our journey and one verse that has helped and continues to guide us is Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” This Christmas we are blessed with two beautiful children. We continue to feel hope, but now it is for their health, happiness, and future. We have learned that hope evolves with our lives.

The Christmas season brings hope for many whether you are a child hoping for a special toy, someone hoping a loved one will return home soon, or a couple hoping for the blessing of a child. Our personal hopes may change from Christmas to Christmas, but as Christians we are able to hold onto the constant hope of God’s gift to us, his son. The Christmas season is about celebrating the birth of Jesus and we have hope for his return.

A Drink of Living Water

A couple of summers ago, I was away on a business trip in Kentucky, and my heart was troubled for a friend who was in the midst of turmoil. Hoping to offer some comfort, I wrote my friend a letter, and during lunch, I rushed to the post office to buy stamps. I found a long line, and an elderly woman stood in front of me. We made casual conversation for a few minutes as she explained she was mailing a letter to her great-grandson who lived in Texas. She said that she didn’t get to see him often, but she wanted him to know that he was special and loved. I relayed my purpose in mailing my letter—my concern for this friend who was making really tough choices. We continued our chat until she reached the clerk’s window, where she turned to me and said: “I enjoyed talking to you. You know, when God gives us a drink of living water, we’d be foolish not to take it.” At first, I was taken aback by her remark, as we had not talked about spiritual matters, but as I made my way back to work, the ageing woman’s wisdom began to resonate with me.

How did she know that I needed a drink of “living water,” a reminder that God is in control and our cares are His cares? Our hope is in him, his words, his comfort; and the knowledge that we are his loved and special children should replenish us every day. That “living water” surrounds us on a daily basis; it’s the gentle reminder that our Savior is amidst our storms; it’s the people that we cross paths with who remind us that we serve a living, risen Savior who walks beside us. Do you need a drink?

Hope is Real

Mark 1:3
Jeremiah 23:5
Micah 5:2
Isaiah 9:6

Mark 1: 3, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’”

The easiest characters to miss in the Christmas story are the characters who are not physically there: the prophets. Although they all died centuries before Jesus’ birth, God still uses them to remind us that the story of Christmas is part of a larger story of God’s interaction with humanity. These prophets of old bring to us the basis for hope and the promises that make hope real.

Prophecies are found throughout the Old Testament. One theme that threads its way through many prophecies is the HOPE of a promised Messiah, an “Anointed One” who will redeem God’s people and restore all things. The promises of God through the prophets brought hope to God’s people in Old Testament days, and those promises concerning the Messiah bring increasing clarity of God’s promises to us today. Jeremiah 23:5 says the Messiah will be a descendent of David, and Micah 5:2 announced that he will be born in Bethlehem. The prophets from the Old Testament are still a part of the Christmas Story. From the wilderness, they gave God’s people the hope of a coming Messiah. Isaiah 9:6 says he would be called, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” These prophecies provide us with confidence and hope that God fulfills every promise he makes.

One of the most important gifts we can give to another person this Christmas season is the gift of hope. We, as servants of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, are to share the good news of hope that we have found in Jesus, the Son of God. Make hope real to someone this Christmas season!

My prayer is that others will find that HOPE is REAL and that it comes from God. He has placed hope in our hearts, and it is ours for the taking and sharing with others. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.

Our Hope Does Not Disappoint

Isaiah 64:4-8
Hebrews 11:1

We say, “I hope” a lot, especially around the holidays. I hope all the family can get together this year. I hope I don’t overcook the turkey. I hope I can get everything done on my ‘To Do’ list. I hope I get that special gift I have been hinting about.

What we really mean is, “I wish.” ‘I wish’ is based on our desires, the ingenuity of ourselves or others motivated towards pleasing us, and maybe some luck or Jolly St. Nick involvement.

Hebrews 11:1 teaches us that real hope is brought about by faith, and FAITH is only as potent as the object of our faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1).

Being certain of God is the hope that sustains us in all times.

Five Christmases ago, I was facing the first of my major cancer surgeries, and, quite frankly, hoping to make it until the next Christmas season. I hoped to watch my little granddaughter, aged 1 ½ years, open gifts and hear the Baby Jesus story again and again. I was hoping in the ONE who can provide hope.

I am still asking God for more Christmases, and I am so very thankful that I am approaching this advent season with FIVE beautiful grandchildren. I am thankful for the God of whom Isaiah spoke: “From ages past no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who wait for him.” (Isaiah 64:4).

We hope in a God who loves us enough to send a savior, to meet us with grace at even the hardest places in our lives. He did it out of LOVE. The God of eternity entered in. He always does.

My hope goes beyond Christmas seasons to the ORIGIN of Christmas: The Christ child volunteered to go to the cross for you and me. Let us live our days in a way that says to Him, “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8).

Faded Blue Jean Glory

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory…” (John 1:14).

The Christmas story is the story of God becoming flesh, of revealing his glory to all peoples. However, if I’m honest, I’m much more comfortable with the glory part and not so much the flesh part. One would think it would be the other way around. I am flesh and definitely not glory, except maybe when I landed that 18 inch Redfish in my secret fishing hole three weeks ago, but not really then either. My line tangled in a huge wad, almost fell out of the kayak twice, and then stepped up to my knees in marsh mud. So, I don’t really know too much about glory.

    But surprisingly, it’s easier to talk about his glory. Jesus’ glory and God’s glory revealed through him. In fact, most of the carols I sing, Christmas cards I send, and Christmas messages I hear are about that glory. The almost incomprehensible revelation of pure grace and truth offering salvation from sure death that came that night. And when we attempt to describe his glory that night, we sing and speak of golden angel wings, perfect swaddling clothes, and well-behaved donkeys, but I’m still trying to get the marsh mud out of my faded blue jeans.

    Maybe there is something to that flesh thing. I haven’t seen any angels yet. I’ve met some folks pretty close to it though. I have never met a well-behaved donkey, and most babies I know are never perfectly wrapped for long, especially on arrival. So maybe that flesh thing was really flesh. Maybe he did know something about tangled fishing lines and sticky mud up to one’s knees. For then, all of my life everyday has meaning every second. Maybe, that’s even the glory part. My wadded fishing reel and faded blue jeans are desperately hoping so.

Dorcus Group Update – October 19th, 2014

Allyson Jennings joined the Dorcas Group as its youngest member this past summer. She attended meetings regularly and became an integral part of the group by participating in discussions, by learning to “string” ditty bags, by helping hang little dresses on hangers as they were brought in, and by helping count items being separated for delivery. She made herself a “working” member of the group and was completely at ease conversing and working with an older group of women.

To let Allyson know how much the Dorcas ladies love and appreciate her, they invited her to the Dorcas meeting, which she had not been able to attend since school started, and gave her a surprise made just for her — a fleece-backed throw made from a special piece of cloth she admired. She was also presented her own little ditty bag filled with a sewing kit and other goodies and a framed picture of her working in the Dorcas room.

All the Dorcas ladies, Allyson, her dad Michael, brother Peyton, the office staff, Rebekah White , Justin Moser, and others who wanted to let Allyson know they were proud of her joined together in a happy ice-cream social featuring a special cake for Allyson. The Dorcas ladies look forward to her working with them again next summer.

Pastoral Refelctions – September 27th, 2014

Sunday- -A Special Day:
Ordination for Justin Moser At 5:30pm and Reception
• This occasion precedes the beginning of the Mercer-McAfee
Preaching conference and will allow a nice connection.
Dean Alan Culpepper will offer a welcome.
• We encourage your presence in this significant milestone in
Justin’s ministry.

Monday at 7pm, Worship and Reception
This service has become a highlight for the preaching conference and you’ll well enjoy a moving time of worship.

The Joy of New Beginnings
by Rev. J. Barrett Owen,
Associate Director of Admissions
McAfee School of Theology
Text: Deuteronomy 31:1-8

Special Music by FBCSSI choir and Michael Jennings
Cake Reception follows.

Sunday Worship
I want to pursue one more biographical sketch appropriate for the day—Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s entire ministry was built on a strong source of his most dynamic concepts of Christian life. It gathers up all the parts of our life and provides direction.

The picnic was a nice occasion: Beautiful setting, nicely grilled food, pool side fun.

Georgia Bulldogs and Tennessee Vols at high Noon on Saturday—Interesting time.

Pastoral Reflections – February 2nd, 2014

A wonderful and well-attended meal followed our Sunday Worship Service. Much work through many hands went into the making of this good event. Thanks especially to Carolyn Still, Maxine Chambless, Allaine Ridenour, Sandra Benson, Billie Gomez and Nancy Bryson. The video (Thanks Rev. Rebekah White) enabled us to see some of the needed aspects of our goals in Caring For The Cornerstone. As you know we set a $500,000 Goal for this campaign. WE HAVE RECEIVED ADVANCE PLEDGES OF APPROXIMATELY $170,000! A great start—

We have designed the first two Sunday’s in February (2nd & 9th) as our
official kick-off in Giving.

So, Remember we begin this process of receiving gifts on this Sunday. Your prayers and participation will result in a proud realization of much
needed improvements.

We should have much more special information to release in a special bulletin in February. Meanwhile, I know you are aware that we move into
the CLC for worship on February 16th. You will begin to receive specifics of the good planning going into this time period. I am confident we will
make the timelines to return to our Sanctuary by Easter Sunday.

I am amazed at how lectionary text so often seems to be the right text for the time. On this Sunday, Paul’s word about the Cross is most relevant to
us at this junction. He places a high premium on the Church and the centrality of the cross to enable the people of God to maintain perspective! A good word for us!

Sermon Title:
The Foolishness of God
Sermon Text:
I Corinthians 1:18—2:2

Five Functions of the Church

As we are beginning our church’s “Caring for the Cornerstone Campaign” we can reflect on the functions we are to carry out as a church. The five functions are: worship, teach, fellowship, evangelize and serve. I would like to invite us to read the Scripture below and reflect how we carry these out at First Baptist Church Saint Simons Island.

1 Chronicles 16:29 says, “Give to the LORD the glory he deserves! Bring your offering and come into his presence. Worship the LORD in all his holy splendor.” It tells us that the church should worship.

Matthew 28:20 says, “…teach them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” It tells us that the church should teach.

Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another.” It tells us that the church should fellowship.

Mark 16:15 says, “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” It tells us that the church should evangelize.

1 Peter 4:10 says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” It tells us that the church should serve.

Dear God, help us to always have You as our focus here at First Baptist Church Saint Simons Island. Help us as we worship, teach, fellowship, evangelize and serve. It is in Christ name we pray, Amen.

Responding to the Call to Serve

When my son Grady was nine months old he had already been hospitalized several times for lung infections. In the midst of one of these hospitalizations we discovered that our apartment at the time was riddled with mold and the closet in Grady’s bedroom was the hidden reservoir deposit for a leak in the building’s roof. It became a necessity that we move on short notice with Grady still in the hospital. Though we had only attended two or three services at First Baptist Church St. Simons Island, a visit from a church member while Grady was in the hospital prompted an email which called several families to our home to help with the move. Though I know these families now as the Owen’s, Bryson’s and McFarland’s, at the time we were strangers to each other. If it had not been for the help of the church, several members of whom we had not even met at the time, the move out of our moldy apartment would not have been possible.

When I think about the light of Christ shining to give glory to God, this is the one event that stands out amongst all others in my mind – this sentinel event is the reason my family are members of First Baptist Church St. Simons Island. Though I know I have told this story before in other contexts, I tell it here to demonstrate how being the light of Christ often means a blind response to opportunity. There are those times in life where we receive a phone call, email, or text asking us to act or give and our response needs to be “Yes” simply because God has given us the opportunity to be the light of Christ to others. Are there any opportunities in your life to be the light of Christ to which you simply need to say “Yes?”