Dear Church Family,
I hope this blog finds you well this morning. Many of our activities are beginning again here at the church and I could not be more excited. I trust that you will make every effort to come and support The Oaks and our ministries as we do our best to serve the Lord.
My sermon Sunday comes from that poignant text in the Gospel of Matthew. It is Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus is in Caesarea Philippi, some 25 miles north of Galilee. While there, Jesus asks His disciples a question. "Who do men say that I am?" They quickly respond, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, others say Jeremiah or one of the prophets." After having seemingly passed the pop quiz, Jesus gets personal--"But who do you say that I am?" Well that is a different question entirely.
You see church, it's not enough for us to know about Jesus. It is not enough for us to claim that we are Baptist, or Methodist or Catholic. It's not enough to say I was reared in a Christian home or my mom was the WMU director or my dad a deacon. All of that fails in light of Jesus' question. Jesus' question is directed at each of us personally, and we must respond.
Peter's answer/confession to Jesus' question was "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God." That is the first time in the scriptures that Jesus is given such a title...the first time that someone truly recognizes who He is. So with that said, I ask you, "Who do you say Jesus is?" What is your confession of faith? And once you decide what your confession of faith is, answer this question--how do you live out your confession on a day to day basis?
Think it through...but answer. Answer Jesus' personal question not only with words, but with deeds.
I'll see you Sunday,
Dear Church Family,
What does God look like? Do you have any idea? Some feel He looks like an old man with a long gray beard, sitting on a throne. In that thought provoking book, "The Shack" by William P. Young, God is portrayed as an African American Woman who meets the main character in a cabin. So who is right? What does God look like?
In our text for Sunday, John 14:1-14, Philip asks Jesus that question. He says, "Show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." In other words, "What does God really look like?" To find out how Jesus responds, you'll have to read your Bible. That's a good idea anyway because it will lay the groundwork for our worship Sunday.
Be in prayer for our Mission Team as they are going to Mississippi this week. During Sunday's worship, we will commission them, and send them forth with God's blessing.
I look forward to seeing you Sunday. And if anyone has any thoughts about what God looks like, I would love to hear it.
May God bless you and keep you,
This week's meditation was written by Dr. Brad Green:
Facebook will not let me forget certain things that are best forgotten. Many people I know "purge" their Facebook friends, getting rid of those people that they didn't really talk to that much when they were physically around each other. I wonder if I've ever been "purged." I don't do that, so I constantly see photos that remind me the past isn't exactly the past as I remember it.
A week ago, a family friend posted a picture of me, my brothers, and our friends on Easter morning. It must have been from about 1982. I have had an image in my mind of that moment for all these years; of the exact moment this picture was taken. That image was dramatically altered when I saw this posted picture.
The image in my mind was of me looking at my Easter basket, of my brothers and friends also looking on with awe and jealousy at my amazing basket - full of fancy chocolates and toys. In my mind we were well dressed, and my parents were just as excited about the baskets as we were. Everyone was beautiful and giggly. It's a nice image, isn't it? The picture wasn't like that at all. It was early in the morning. All the kids were giggly, but the adults looked like characters in an early 80's zombie movie. Not one person, not my mom or anyone else, even looked at my basket. Our living room was decorated in late 70's patterns that I had forgotten, and my basket looked a little skimpy. Why did Facebook have to go and ruin a perfectly good memory?
We all romanticize the past. Each time I remember an event, a story, or a memory, I emphasize the good memories, and the less pleasing memories melt away. It burns itself a bit deeper, and becomes a little more of who I am. Just as I remember that Easter morning the way I wanted it to happen, we often remember the story of Jesus in a way that is pleasing to our memory. We see pictures of Baby Jesus in the manger. We see pictures of Jesus doing the miraculous, enshrined in rays of light, with a halo and angels all around. That's why Holy Week is so important.
If it weren't for Holy Week, we would skip over the uncomfortable parts. We would skip over the parts that don't fit our idea of how the story should go. The Bible is the most uncomfortable book I know, and it reaches a universe-rattling tension during Holy Week. No other story has caused such strife. No other story is full of such hope.
There is amazing wisdom in the retelling, the reliving, the remembering, the re-journeying of Holy Week. I hope that I can recall the last week of the Son of God as it truly was. Maybe in this remembering, the story can become a fresh reality for us all.
- Dr. Brad Green
This week's meditation is written by Rita Ponder.
No offense to preachers, but my personal trigger for worship has always been music. No preacher can say what Isaac Watts and Fannie Crosby expressed in the hymns they penned.
Music has a massive effect on my spirit and attitude. i am moved during the Lenten Season when I hear and sing "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" and "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross."
Lenten hymns bring me back in focus, redirect my wayward thoughts, and send me from worship wanting to follow my Jesus to the Cross. These hymns are haunting, riveting, and inspiring. Music is my trigger for worship; my means of giving back to God. What is your worship trigger? Is it music, sermon, prayer, Bible study? Think about worship. What inspires you most?
Consider how all arts of a cooperate worship service are designed to draw you close to God.
Of all the seasons of the Liturgical year, the Lenten Season should be the one where we Christians should desire to be in worship. We all need a reminder of the Passion of Christ, and hymns in worship are about the best way to get back in touch with the reality of Jesus' journey to the Cross.
Martin Luther said, "Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us." We can return that gift when we come to worship.
This week's lent meditation is written by Cheryl West.
I sit here day after day or walk around as best I can. You see, I was born blind, and I don’t have anything to do to fill the long days. I’m not able to do any productive work since I can’t see, so I fill my days as best I can People walk past me all the time, but they don’t really pay any attention to me I wonder if they really see me. I would love for someone to stop and talk with me; to ask me how I am doing. Wait a minute… did I hear something? Did someone say something to me? What is happening? Someone is putting mud on my eyes and telling me to “to wash in the pool of Siloam.” That’s strange, but I will do what he asks. I have to get the mud off my eyes after all, and he said something about being the “light of the world” and “working before night comes.” What could that mean? Oh, the water feels so good on my face! Finally, I have all the mud off! Wait a minute! What is this? I can’t believe it! Something is so very bright? I have never seen bright before! And what are those? Are those my hands, my fingers? Whatever the man did, it restored my sight! I can see! I can see!
This is one of the many miracles Jesus performed while He was on earth. We read about it in the scripture; we hear of it in the lines of an old hymn: “Once I was blind but now I can see! The Light of the World is Jesus!” Jesus did not pass by the blind man as others did each day. He stopped; He talked with him; He gave the man instructions which the man obediently followed. He recognized his infirmity and healed him through His power.
There are many people in the world suffering in one way or another. Their infirmity may not be as obvious as being blind; in fact, it may not be a physical infirmity at all, but the hurt and pain are just as real. Who will be Jesus to these people? Bruce Carroll and Aaron Wilburn wrote a song entitled “Who Will Be Jesus?” The lines below portray this idea much better than I can:
Wounded people ev’rywhere, and when they look at us do they see Jesus there?
Who will be Jesus to them? Who’ll show the love that restores them again?
They do not need a judge, they need a friend; who will be Jesus to them?
These people may be co-workers, the waitress at a local restaurant, the person at the checkout counter at the grocery store, a student in our classroom, a member of our family. We see them all the time, but do we really SEE them? Do we pick up on clues that show they may be depressed or going through a hard time? Do we ignore them or offer our help? The song “People Need the Lord” by Steve Green poses this question to us in a real way.
Ev’ry day they pass me by, I can see it in their eyes;
Empty people filled with care, headed who knows where.
On they go through private pain, living fear to fear.
Laughter hides the silent cries only Jesus hears.
We are called to take His light
To a world where wrong seems right;
What could be too great a cost
For sharing life with one who’s lost?
Through His love our hearts can feel all the grief they bear.
They must hear the words of life only we can share.
People need the Lord. People need the Lord
At the end of broken dreams, He’s the open door.
People need the Lord, People need the Lord.
When will we realize, people need the Lord?
We need to give our lives, ‘cause people need the Lord.
We just completed our Feed the Hungry, Feed the Soul ministry for another year. This is a great opportunity to minister physically and spiritually to the people around us. May we carry this care and concern for those around us through this Easter season and beyond. Jesus died on the cross to set us free from the bondage of sin; let us be His hands, His feet, His voice and minister to the people surrounding us each day. Will you be Jesus to them?
This week's meditation is written by Celeste Robison
I didn't know her name or age. Our conversation was brief. The wind chill was twenty-eight degrees, and she was huddled next to Parker's convenience store in shorts and a tank. Uh oh! What if someone saw me talking to her? What if I was seen handing her my son's UGA sweatshirt? Through her tears she whispered, "God bless you." Through my tears, I drove back to my nice, warm home. She wasn't freezing anymore, and that was all that mattered.
I didn't know his name or age. He was a black man, obviously mentally challenged. I observed him while I sat in the McDonald's drive-thru as he swept up the trash. Teenage boys pulled up beside him. "Hey retard!" The man bent down to pick up the mess the boys threw at his feet. When he stood, he looked my way. I motioned for him to come closer. His eyes were filled with tears, and my heart broke. I bragged about his work and told him to ignore the mean boys. I offered him a twenty. "I can't take nothing from a white lady." I smiled, and said I'd be honored to share with him. For a moment, he squeezed my hand. The color of our skin made no difference. he had been hurt, and that was all that mattered.
He actually did know her name. He had seen her many times before. He offered her a ride and some food. Together they walked into Little Ceaser's, much like any other couple. But she was homeless and destitute and he was a handsome young pastor picking up dinner for his family. Two pizzas later, each of them went their separate ways. But she wasn't hungry anymore, and that was all that mattered.
We don't know her name or age, but Jesus engaged in His longest single conversation recorded in scripture with that ashamed and broken Samaritan woman. It was very hot, and Jesus was thirsty. "Will you give me a drink?" Uh oh! Jews weren't supposed to speak to Samaritans. Men weren't permitted to address women without their husbands present. Why would anyone pass the time of day with a shady lady who had five husbands and was sleeping with another man? Instead of insisting she pour Him a drink, He offered her living water. She focused on her shame. Jesus focused on grace and eternal life, and that was all that mattered.
There are many seeking living water today. people of color, poor people, hungry people, people in prison, homeless people, hurting people, and the list goes on. Are you willing to provide that water? The season of Lent is the perfect time to consider an invitation to be at risk. We have an invitation to cross social boundaries and taboos. We don't have to know their names or their ages. All that matters is that we help them. And as that same young pastor reminds us each week...Err on the side of grace!
This week's meditation is written by Pete Frost.
"Bless her heart. She leaves for college Saturday."
"He's going to Afghanistan, bless his heart."
"Bless their hearts. The husband lost his job."
"She's facing six rounds of chemo, bless her heart."
"Bless her heart" is an expression I've heard almost every day for my whole life. I think most of us probably have. I must say, though, I've never thought too much about its origin, but in reading about Abraham, I wonder if it didn't start with him? After all, God made a covenant with Abraham. That covenant promised blessings to Abraham, his family, and to all who came after him. What a deal! However, Abraham was facing difficult and unknown territory. Wouldn't it be easier to stay home where life was safe and comfortable? Fortunately, Abraham followed God's call and entered the unknown In order to be bestowed a great blessing, he had to rely on faith and obedience. So, he left his home in Mesopotamia with his family in tow, and headed for Canaan. The unknown. Bless his heart! He had his father, his wife, and his nephew. They were to venture to worlds unknown. But God accompanied them. He promised blessing, and He delivered.
Sometimes we enter the unknown by choice when we take a new job, choose to marry, enter the mission field. Other times we face the unknown by chance when those we love get cancer, a spouse files for divorce, or we lose a job. Yet still, God is with us. He promises blessing, and He delivers. Abraham's story is proof. I have to give Abraham credit for the "bless his heart" expression. His story of perseverance, obedience, and faith reminds us that we are literally blessed. God promised. If we rely on faith, even in worlds unknown, we will receive blessing. The unknown can be scary and difficult but because of Abraham's testimony and God's grace, our hearts are blessed. So the next time you hear or say, "bless his/her heart," be reminded that it's TRUE...for all of us!
"The Lord had said to Abram, 'Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. - Genesis 12:1-3.
"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going." - Hebrews 11:8
This week's meditation is written by Rustin Howard
A few weeks ago, I sat down with Ashley. Ashley and I spent the last year at UGA together. When we weren't at Winder-Barrow high School education the future leaders of North Georgia, we were somewhere writing something to be turned into someone with the first name "Dr." As she and I sat in her living room, we talked and reminisced about one of the hardest but best years of our lives. I couldn't help but wonder what our futures would bring. When we were at UGA, we had hopes, aspirations and dreams. We continued to talk and share them even after graduation.
Ashley called me about tow years go, and we talked for a while. We don't talk as often as we once did, but when we do, we can pick right back where we left off in 2009. She was trying to get pregnant, and it wasn't working. She was upset and had many thoughts running through her head. She prayed. Her husband prayed. I prayed. She would fail to conceive, and we'd all pray again. This repeated itself multiple times. I think Ashley and I became closer during this time than we were when we spent every day together. Throughout her struggle to get pregnant, I prayed for her, and I prayed that God would send her a baby. I wasn't always sure God would, but I prayed and I hoped. There was something about my hopeful prayer combined with her hopeful prayer that kept us both going.
Ashley had to wait. It was a long wait, and often she felt like she suffered. Many of us feel like that when God makes us wait on Him. We think He will come through, but oh! The wait is so long! Throughout the next few weeks, we will fast and pray. We will prepare ourselves for a time that is somber A time of mourning; a time for weeping; we will wait. Waiting is hard. We spend much of the time praying, hoping, and waiting in expectation. Throughout the next forty days, as you fast and wait for the time when you will get your caffeine or sweets back, think of what this wait means. The next forty days were some of the hardest for Jesus. He was waiting in expectation, but He knew He would have to suffer before a celebration.
We've all heard the saying "There has to be a storm before a rainbow." I watched the storm, but the rainbow was beautiful. Ashley and I weren't the only two people in her living room that day. Baby Hudson traveled from my arms to her arms for about two hours as we watched him. I was reminded of the Hope that my God brings. There is something about a baby. His little hands, feet, nose, and the story that I knew was behind his creation made it even more special. I'm glad Ashley could wait, but most of all, I'm glad Jesus accepted His wait. I'm even gladder that Jesus accepted His fate so that I could have Hope of one day meeting my God face to face.
Rev. Steve Ayers, Jr. began serving as pastor for The Oaks Baptist Church on June 27, 2016. He and his wife Rebekah along with their two twin boys Luke and Silas have become an important part of the church. Their warm and loving spirits as well as the boys have captured the hearts of many at the church.