shadow

Unity

“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬
“u·ni·ty”
noun: unity
  1. the state of being united or joined as a whole.

It’s a pretty simple word with a pretty simple definition. It’s actually not a word we give much thought to most days. With this being the week of “Stronger Together: A Night of Unity”, it’s a word I’ve been thinking about a lot. Our country needs unity. Our state needs unity. Our children need unity to thrive. Our church is in desperate need of unity. Unity, a condition we have taken for granted, has morphed, unfortunately, into disunity. It’s all around us. We see it in the news daily. Our children are growing up in a world where disunity is “the norm”… it’s simply what we expect.

Christians not only are splintered into a variety of beliefs and associations, but within our churches, the differences between each believer can often be harsh and can even cause irreconcilable rifts. And this happens while the world is watching. Unity must occur within the church and its body of believers. Once the Body of Christ is unified, we will find final victory. The world will see our victory and we, the Body of Christ, will be stronger than ever.

Unified, our sole purpose should be to glorify God. As a body of believers, we must always stand guard and remember satan wants nothing more than to cause disunity in our world, our churches and our relationships. He wants to divide and conquer. Thankfully, we serve a God who wants to heal such brokenness. He longs for unity among His people.

The solution to disunity is quite simply to be found  in Christ alone. Within unity we find strength…and are stronger together. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:15-16‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Carrie Thames

“I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble….” (‭Psalms‬ ‭121‬:‭1-3‬ NLT)

Keep Calm and Sing On

Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. (2 Chronicles 20:2-4, NIV)

In 1939, as World War II was breaking out all over Europe, the newly formed British Ministry of Information was tasked with creating a number of propaganda posters. Three posters were printed. The first two posters were hung all over the British Isles to boost the morale of the citizens. The third poster (KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON) had a somewhat different purpose. The plan in place for this poster was to issue it only upon the invasion of Britain by Germany. As this never happened, the poster was never officially seen by the public. Presumably, all of the pre-printed posters were to be destroyed after the war. While only a few of the original posters remain today, the slogan (with all of its variations) continues to inspire people.

Don’t let the simplicity of the ‘Keep Calm’ poster mute the impact of its message. There are three things we can use to gain perspective:

  1. The Crown – This singular embellishment, the crown of King George VI, was a constant reminder to the citizens of Britain of who their true leader was. No matter influence of an invading army, the kingdom remained.
  2. KEEP CALM – The presence of the invading enemy within the most intimate areas of our lives, marching through the streets of our neighborhoods and affecting our friends and loved ones, is no time for panic.
  3. CARRY ON – This is a clarion call for the survival of a people. Britain would only remain a nation so long as its citizenship remained in the hearts of its people. [For example, the modern day nation of Israel could not have been established in 1948 if there were no Israelites to become citizens of the new nation.]

Today, God’s Church must understand that it is also at war. We have to deal with bombings, gunmen, an anti-Christian culture, and murderous Islamic jihadists. It has been stated that 80-90% of all religious martyrs are Christians. However, there is an equally real battle within us. We are constantly invaded with ideas that Creator God is not enough. It is a fight waged against doubt and fear; a war against our own flesh. Unfortunately, all too often we go into survival mode and try to fight this war as lone soldiers.

Given these two battlefronts, what is the proper call to action? Look to King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles, chapter 20. In response to a vast invading army of Moabites, Jehoshaphat declares a nationwide fast. The final line of his prayer reveals the king’s dependence on God: We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you. (v. 12)

God, who never forsakes His children, replied through his prophet Jahaziel:

‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s… You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’ (vv. 15, 17)

Because Jehoshaphat humbled himself before God, and he took the time to hear God’s Word, he was able to go into battle with the Lord’s provision:

After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

 “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever.”

 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. (vv. 21-22)

 We are called to battle! Often, we will be called to stand stronger together and lead the charge. Therefore, we must cling to God’s Word and always be prepared to answer the command of God to lead, to encourage, and to go out. Our hearts must reflect complete dependence on our King. Through spiritual maturity and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we must KEEP CALM. And finally, we have been called to a ministry of leadership in worship, just like the Levites of old. Therefore, we must SING ON.

I love you choir, orchestra, and media team!

For Christ and His Bride,

Brad Moreman

One Mind

Romans 15:5-6

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As musicians, we all realize that sound travels in waves. I don’t remember much from the acoustics section of physics class, but as I was reflecting on the theme Stronger Together, the interesting illustration of the benefit of unity in the way sounds waves interact came to mind.

Interference is what happens when two (or more) waves come together. Visualize with me: A wave has peaks and troughs – and depending on how those are matched together, those waves can add or amplify each other or even cancel each other out completely.

Aptly termed, constructive interference means that two waves are in the same direction with the same oscillations come together as another wave, and this resultant wave is much larger than the amplitude of an individual wave.  For 100 waves of the same amplitude interfering constructively, the resulting amplitude is 100 times larger than an individual wave, and 500 waves are 500 times stronger!

On the other hand, destructive interference occurs when two waves come together in a way that completely cancels each other out. If there are more than two waves with different amplitude, they all combine in some way to produce zero amplitude.  We can see the effects of both acoustical principles in the way ensembles can sound incredible as well as the way sound canceling earphones work.

The top wave in the picture is an example of constructive interference and the bottom is an example destructive interference.

We might sing or play an instrument in unity for emphasis (think volume) and add harmony for color and richness of sound. Either way, being on-pitch is important, as a chord with one note out of sync can turn music into noise, displeasing to the ear.

In the same way, we are all part of the body of Christ. While we all have different gifts and talents, different opinions, different views on theology and politics, we can cancel each other out if we are not unified. Or maybe even worse, dissenters can sound like noise or clanging cymbals. Jesus spoke of unity often in the Gospels, because the people causing the warbles or dissonance were the religious leaders of that day… and Paul echoes the importance of unity of believers in nearly every epistle, so that we may amplify the love of Christ.

In times of transition, uncertainty, political elections, and change, picking apart perceived problems and voicing opinions on what is wrong is taking the easy road out. If we are not emanating a unified sound in voice, in action, and in our treatment of others (including each other), we are simple noise that can potentially even cancel each other out completely. Does Jackson see our church as a silent building in the middle of a city/state/world of unrest?  Echoing Micah Fries’ sermon Sunday, August 2, are we truly living as exiles in this world, unified in one voice for Christ? Or are we so preoccupied with what is going wrong with the world, with politics, with other cultures, with each other that we have lost sight of what Jesus calls us to do in this world?

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Then…I will know that you stand firm in One Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the Gospel.” Philippians 1:27

Imagine what could happen if the Metro Jackson area saw First Baptist Jackson as a people united in mission and purpose?  What if they saw our entire church and individual lives marked by a continuing pursuit of unity?

We know we are Stronger Together. Let’s get on the same wavelength and amplify Christ’s love.

In John 17, Jesus prayed for all believers to be “brought to complete unity…then the world will know”.

Meredith Warf

Orchestra/Band

The Body of Christ

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many…  But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be… Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12: 12-14, 18, 27 NIV

In the above verses Paul refers to the church, those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ, as the body of Christ.  The church is made up of many parts and every part plays a vital role in God’s plan. Each one of us has been given talents and abilities that God intends to be used for His glory in His church. Some are called to preach, some to teach, some to serve, etc… Whatever role God intends for you to play in His church can only be accomplished by your obedience to Him. He has chosen you specifically.

Just like the church is the body of Christ, our worship ministry family is part of the body of Christ.  God has a calling for each of us and we all play a vital role in that family. (Remember verse 18 again; “just as He wanted them to be.”) Your calling may be to play in the orchestra, run lighting and sound, sing a solo, etc… Whatever it is, there are no small roles when it comes to serving God. When each of us obeys God’s calling on our lives, the stronger we are together.

Emily Agent

Stronger Together

Of Three Strands
Of Three Strands

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NASB

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

Stronger Together. What does that mean? In this silo’ed world where so often it is “all about me” and where many (most?) of us try to stand apart, how do we interpret this?

In the early church not long after the Ascension, Acts (1:14 NASB) records: These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. Jesus gathered the disciples together and told them not leave Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came upon them. And the Holy Spirit did come as Jesus promised opened their hearts and their minds and they fellowshipped together as they shared the love of Jesus and how He cleansed the people from their sins. They were Stronger Together. 

Wise Solomon experientially knew that one man alone could not stand against those who would try to take them down. He offered that two are much stronger – one can lift the other up, keep him warm, minister to his needs. But add the third strand – and I choose to believe in Solomon’s proverb that this third strand is none other than God – and the cord is not easily broken.  God, if you will, binds the cord in such as way that unraveling it is extremely difficult. Stronger Together.

As we kick off the new church year, and choir and orchestra ramp back up, I challenge each of us to look for ways to lift each other up. Worship is not about the anthem or who is playing what instrument this week or if the call to be a soloist does not come. Worship is about Jesus. About honoring Him. About standing in the gap for His people. About telling our story about our relationship with Him to others and inviting others to come in with us to worship. Stronger Together. It is about new opportunities for worship, about vocalists and instrumentalists working together as a unit, about nurturing and mentoring students who will join us for the first time in the orchestra as a new part of our ministry and all of us reaching out to them, adopting them, loving on them, telling them the Story of Jesus.  Stronger Together.  It is about praying for our church staff, church leadership, and for the man God has identified to be our next Senior Pastor. Stronger Together.

As hard headed and independent as I am, I realize that I am no good alone. I am grateful for my friends and family who stand along side as my encouragers and prayer partners. And most of all, I am eternally grateful that the third strand anchors me – I have no doubt about that. Jesus lives in me because I answered that question long ago when I invited Him in and asked Him to forgive my sins and make me whole. Have you done that? If not, let’s talk about it soon.

Stronger Together and Still Choosing Joy!

Cille Litchfield