An online auction for a great cause

FOCUS is the Fellowship of Christians in Universities and Schools.  It is a diverse community of students, alumni, parents, faculty, clergy, and professionals from a variety of Christian denominations drawn together by a common faith and purpose.  Our purpose is to explore with independent school students a life of faith that is real, adventurous, intellectually sound, and eminently practical.

The group that meets here in the city includes a very important person: my oldest daughter. The leadership of FOCUS NYC have been wonderful partners in discipling her and her friends to know, love, and follow Jesus.

And they could use your help.

Until May 1, FOCUS NYC is conducting an online auction to raise funds for their ministry. The diverse range of items includes a July 4th stay in Nantucket, a private dinner for eight prepared by chef Elisha London, and an autographed Victor Cruz jersey. You can view and bid on items here.

Take a look. You might find something you like, and support a great cause in the process.

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The King and His Cynical Leaders

photo courtesy of howstuffworks

Our kids love their blankets. When we travel, packing their favorite ones is not optional but mandatory. They provide our children more than warmth, but give a sense of security, familiarity, and protection in an unfamiliar setting.

That’s one of the images the prophet employs in our text. The people of Judah were in danger, so to speak, of choosing the wrong blanket—one that might give a feeling of security but in the end would provide no protection at all. What they thought could protect them from death would only hasten its coming.

All of us are running from death, even if we run to a different blanket than Isaiah’s first audience. And when God says to run instead to Him, we balk at such simplicity. Trust Him? We can’t even see Him. How can He secure us? And like the people of Jerusalem, we merely hasten our demise.

And yet there is hope, for this God we treat with cynicism has not stopped pursuing us with His love.

Title: The King and His Cynical Leaders

Text: Isaiah 28


  • bed and blanket
  • what they want
  • covenant with death


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Preparation for Worship (4/18/15)

Scripture to consider: Isaiah 28

Woe to that wreath, the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards,
    to the fading flower, his glorious beauty,
set on the head of a fertile valley—
    to that city, the pride of those laid low by wine!
See, the Lord has one who is powerful and strong.
    Like a hailstorm and a destructive wind,
like a driving rain and a flooding downpour,
    he will throw it forcefully to the ground.
That wreath, the pride of Ephraim’s drunkards,
    will be trampled underfoot.
That fading flower, his glorious beauty,
    set on the head of a fertile valley,
will be like figs ripe before harvest—
    as soon as people see them and take them in hand,
    they swallow them.

In that day the Lord Almighty
    will be a glorious crown,
a beautiful wreath
    for the remnant of his people.
He will be a spirit of justice
    to the one who sits in judgment,
a source of strength
    to those who turn back the battle at the gate.

And these also stagger from wine
    and reel from beer:
Priests and prophets stagger from beer
    and are befuddled with wine;
they reel from beer,
    they stagger when seeing visions,
    they stumble when rendering decisions.
All the tables are covered with vomit
    and there is not a spot without filth.

“Who is it he is trying to teach?
    To whom is he explaining his message?
To children weaned from their milk,
    to those just taken from the breast?
10 For it is:
    Do this, do that,
    a rule for this, a rule for that;
    a little here, a little there.”

11 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues
    God will speak to this people,
12 to whom he said,
    “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”;
and, “This is the place of repose”—
    but they would not listen.
13 So then, the word of the Lord to them will become:
    Do this, do that,
    a rule for this, a rule for that;
    a little here, a little there—
so that as they go they will fall backward;
    they will be injured and snared and captured.

14 Therefore hear the word of the Lord, you scoffers
    who rule this people in Jerusalem.
15 You boast, “We have entered into a covenant with death,
    with the realm of the dead we have made an agreement.
When an overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
    it cannot touch us,
for we have made a lie our refuge
    and falsehood our hiding place.”

16 So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:

“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
    a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
the one who relies on it
    will never be stricken with panic.
17 I will make justice the measuring line
    and righteousness the plumb line;
hail will sweep away your refuge, the lie,
    and water will overflow your hiding place.
18 Your covenant with death will be annulled;
    your agreement with the realm of the dead will not stand.
When the overwhelming scourge sweeps by,
    you will be beaten down by it.
19 As often as it comes it will carry you away;
    morning after morning, by day and by night,
    it will sweep through.”

The understanding of this message
    will bring sheer terror.
20 The bed is too short to stretch out on,
    the blanket too narrow to wrap around you.
21 The Lord will rise up as he did at Mount Perazim,
    he will rouse himself as in the Valley of Gibeon—
to do his work, his strange work,
    and perform his task, his alien task.
22 Now stop your mocking,
    or your chains will become heavier;
the Lord, the Lord Almighty, has told me
    of the destruction decreed against the whole land.

23 Listen and hear my voice;
    pay attention and hear what I say.
24 When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually?
    Does he keep on breaking up and working the soil?
25 When he has leveled the surface,
    does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin?
Does he not plant wheat in its place,
    barley in its plot,
    and spelt in its field?
26 His God instructs him
    and teaches him the right way.

27 Caraway is not threshed with a sledge,
    nor is the wheel of a cart rolled over cumin;
caraway is beaten out with a rod,
    and cumin with a stick.
28 Grain must be ground to make bread;
    so one does not go on threshing it forever.
The wheels of a threshing cart may be rolled over it,
    but one does not use horses to grind grain.
29 All this also comes from the Lord Almighty,
    whose plan is wonderful,
    whose wisdom is magnificent. (NIV)

Thought to ponder:

photo courtesy of psych central

“There is no more hardened nor cynical person in the world than a religious leader who has seared his conscience. For them, tender appeals which would move anyone else become sources of amusement. They have learned how to debunk everything and to believe nothing, all the while speaking loftily of matters of the spirit.”

John Oswalt, p. 509

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This Weekend at First (4/17/15)

Here’s a look ahead to what we have planned this weekend at First!

Combined Adult Sunday School Class

Beginning Sunday Matthew will lead a combined adult Bible class to consider church partnerships, and specifically the recommendation to affiliate with the MNYBA. Everyone is welcome to attend. Classes begin around 9.40am in Gano Chapel.

Sunday worship

This week’s songs center on the holiness of our God and the joy He brings us through Christ:

The sermon text will be Isaiah 28.

We Met Our Match!

To God be the glory! Through your fervent prayers and generous giving, we have met the challenge given to us by a sister church. They gave us a $25,000 matching gift to our boiler fund—and by God’s grace we’ve matched it! Combining the Easter offering, the Welcome Spring Concert, and other boiler fund gifts since March 15, we raised well over $40,000! This means we should be able to sign the contract to replace the boilers soon. All praise to Jesus, our Servant King!

Quarterly Congregational Meeting

Our next members meeting is Sunday, April 26, after the morning worship service. We will hear updates on various matters related to the church, and hear testimonies from two prospective members. Make your plans to attend.

Ladies Spring Tea

Our annual Ladies Spring Tea will be held in Haldeman Chapel, Saturday, May 2 at 1pm. All are welcome to attend. Please sign up at the table in the back of the sanctuary. For more information, please contact Donna Stephenson, Grace Amoye, or the church office.

Spring Concert: Handel’s Messiah

Save the date! Saturday, May 30 at 7pm, the choir and orchestra of The First Baptist Church in the City of New York will present parts two and three of Georg Handel’s Messiah. The first part was performed in December and put the glory of our Savior on stunning display. Be sure to join us for the rest of this inspired oratorio.

First Look

Considering becoming a member of our church? “First Look: A Class for Prospective Members” will be offered soon. Please contact Gordon or Nick if you would like more information.

See you Sunday!

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The King and the New Israel

photo courtesy of lovetoknow

In today’s text Isaiah presents a second song of the vineyard. Both of them—the one in chapter 5 and the one here in chapter 27—emphasize God’s work of cultivating and protecting his people, but there is one significant difference that must have confounded those who heard the prophet. While the first song of the vineyard emphasizes God’s judgment on his people, the second points to God’s blessing of his people.

How can this be? How can he leave the vine to be destroyed while also using that same vine to fill all the world with fruit?

The resolution of that mystery makes all the difference in the world.

Title: The King and the New Israel

Text: Isaiah 27


  • vine
  • fruit
  • true vine


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