Christmas Celebration ?

For the first time in thirty-eight years, I have not written nor am I directing a nearly two hour Christmas Celebration.  Do I miss the work, the stress, the several hundred singers, instrumentalists, the actors, dancers, large media team, the sets, the crowds, the JOY?  Well….yes, yes I do. HOWEVER, this year I have the opportunity lead a totally marvelous and gracious family of singers and instrumentalist, The Poplar Springs Choir,  as we lead a very powerful and beautiful celebration, THE MIRACLE OF CHRISTMAS, at Poplar Springs Baptist Church, Lavonia, Georgia.  The Sunday morning, December 9th, “music and the Word” worship service will be led by Pastor Bruce McGee.  We will sing the Gospel and Bruce will speak the Gospel.

After well over fifty years of ministry,  the “next” opportunity is always the best and Poplar Springs is my next opportunity as I am honored to serve as interim music man.    These dear folks join the several thousands singers, keyboard players, horn-blowers, drum beaters, camera operators, sound engineers, etc. that have partnered with me over the years in  sharing the Gospel story of the birth of Christ.

Regardless of the size of the church or the choir, the central theme is the love a grace God has poured on us in the person of Jesus Christ.  Believers are weary of this “new world” that is working hard to skirt and even apologize for  the fact that Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ.  Of course, the world has always rejected God, but it seems with all the world wide multiple media outlets, including social media, everyone who rejects Christ are on full-press attack.  The saddest thing this that too many believers, in the name of love, don’t want to upset and have become introvert Christians, fearful to be the witness Christ has called us to be.  It is not my job to attempt to force Christ on anyone.  I simply hate to see people miss out on the amazing grace found in Jesus Christ.

Now I don’t believe any believer should be obnoxious, rude, or in-your-face,  but it is time for us to unapologetically declare our faith in the shed blood of Christ that pour out on all who trust Him His love, grace, forgiveness, abundant and eternal life.  Christmastime is an easy time to invite believes and unbelievers alike to special Christmas Celebrations, concerts, worship service, Christmas Eve candlelight services, and even cantatas.

If your church is presenting a special Christmas program, be there, invite, and even bring family and friends.  One single event like this can revolutionize your Christmas and when you look into the eyes of the Baby Jesus, you will see the Risen Savior.  

If  you don’t have a church home and are even close to Northeast Georgia, join us a Poplar Springs, Sunday morning, December 9, 11:00.  The entire month of December is focused on the Miracle of Christmas as Pastor Bruce shares each Lord’s Day from God Word.


2018, What’s next?

Earlier today I posted my first blog in almost two years.  Why it has been so long?  I’m not really sure, but I guess I was focused elsewhere.  However, after a three and half year “interim” at a truly wonderful church, Level Grove in Cornelia, Georgia, I retired again.   For me, retirement is really good… in small increments.   I believe the Lord will lead me to another church to serve as interim or something in the not too distant future.

My wife, Dorothy, has had a rough few years physically with hip and knee replacement on top of the removal of a benign brain cyst, and most recently, revision hip surgery.  She is doing well and we believe she will be well recovered by late spring.  She has kept a great spirit through it all and her faith has strengthened all tcoen-1-13he more.  This time off for me has allowed me to be of  help to her.  At least at this point, we will remain members of Level Grove. Dorothy told me I could go wherever, but she loves her pastor, Dr. Brian James and her Sunday School class;  unless I really feel she needed to follow me around, she will stay put.

In 2016 we celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary (they don’t let nine-year-olds marry any more….) and are fast approaching fifty-two.  Where I am the June-bug on a string buzzing round as far as I can reach,  Dot is the steady sensible one.  As the song says, “I Am One Blessed Man,” which, by the way, will be the title song of my next recording if I ever get it done.

I remain active with the Sons of Jubal, making myself available for concerts, workshops,interim, or just fill-in for friends.  I guess because I’m old, older,  I’m called upon by some of my younger colleagues for help or encouragement; I am humbled, yet honored.   I’m reading new music and trying to learn a few new licks on my guitar.   I’m  reading a great deal and doing a lot of things around the house.  Also during this sabbatical I’m visiting churches of “like faith” but not necessarily of “like order.” I’m eager to experience how others are communicating the Gospel.  The Gospel never changes, but the way we communicate it does.   I believe it is vital, even for an ‘old guy’ to be instant in season and out of season.  

The soundtrack of my life…

It has been a very long time since I wrote on my blog and during this “sabbatical” much has happened and I’ve learned many things.  I plan to write several blogs in the next few days, maybe even later today, to express where our life and ministry is as we launch out into 2018.

After well over fifty years of leading music for worship, singing solos, singing with college groups, countless churches,  Missouri Music Men, the Singing Churchmen of Oklahoma, the Florida Singing Men, etc, and for the past twenty years or so singing with Georgia’s Sons of Jubal, I have sung literally thousands of songs. There have been some “clHands raised highunkers,” but most have been great.   As has been said by others, “These songs are the soundtrack of my life.”  Throughout every day I either deliberately sing and or rehearse a song that plants joy and truth into my heart and life; sometimes these songs just pop in my head.     Today the word would be an underscore pad playing constantly; in the past, I would have called it a pedal tone.  Whatever, it is there all the time reminding me who God is and what Christ has done for me and for whoever will call on Him.  Actually, it is the Holy Spirit manifesting His presence through these wonderful songs.

I wake up most mornings with a song in my head and generally in my heart as well.   Often that song is one I’m working on, yet sometimes it is an old hymn like “Jesus Paid it All” or “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” maybe “The Well” or “I Sing Because” from my 2013 CD.   I don’t know why some of the songs are there except that the Lord wants to remind me of a truth.  Last week Jon Duncan introduced a new song to the Jubals for our spring concerts, “He Will Hold Me Fast,” written by Mathew Merker, arranged by Phillip Keveren and voiced for the Jubals by David Ray.

When I fear my faith will fail, He will hold me fast……When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast….I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path, for my love is often cold, He must hold me fast…..Those He saves are His delight, Christ will hold me fast….Precious in His holy sight, He will hold me fast….He’ll not let my soul be lost, His promises shall last; bought by Him at such a cost, He will hold me fast…      

I woke singing this song all last weekend; it was just there.    I can’t think of this “new” without singing “Blessed Assurance” at the same time; same message with fresh, powerful  deep lyrics and when that message of love and security is sung in a 21st century setting, which happens to be the century we now live, the Truth becomes fresh and floods my gut, my brain, my soul with peace.

Old songs/hymns of the faith hold our  theology, are familiar, and are vital to our worship,  but New songs are important as well.   A new song doesn’t bring “new truth,” if it is attempts to change God’s Word we need to leave it alone.  However,  a new song can express the ancient Word, the ancient  truth, in a fresh way.  Of course, a song is not good because it is new, it is not good because it is old, it is good because it is good.  No matter how cool or beautiful the melody and harmony, pay close attention to make certain the lyric matches the plumb line of God’s Word.

 Last week I read an article from Hill Song’s Darlene Zscheh that expresses the idea of “new.”

We see that the Levites were trained and skilled in making music before the Lord (1 Chr 25:7). Never compare or be skillful for the sake of it, yet always encourage people to be developing their gifts, to try new things, new ideas. Be vigilant to train and grow and strive for freshness in all that you have been given, for the glory of his name. As the Scripture says:

  • Sing new songs (Isa 42:10).
  • You will be called by a new name (Isa 62:2).
  • I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them (Ezek 11:19).

New songs, new day, new start, new hope, new mercy, new possibilities, new ideas, new ways, new people. God says “new heaven and a new earth,” “new covenant,” “new self,” “new heart,” “new command,” “new creation”…new, new, new!

Debate or Brawl?

As I re-read the following paragraphs, I  became depressed even though I wrote the text.   However, the bottom line, God is in charge.  I have victory in Jesus as to all believers.   We have joy even in the middle of elections.   This world is not our home, yet, while here, I belive our Lord expects us to be bold and take an unapologetic stand on God’s Word.   We are not to be jerks, be rude and obnoxious, but we are not to cave on Truth.  

Last night I watched the Texas Republican Debate.  I had an afghan near me and time and again I put it over my head.  The three front runners acted anything  but presidentielection 16al.  They screamed, talked over one another, and were totally rude.  I am a total conservative at virtually every level, but I was embarrassed, ashamed, and disgusted.  Trump, Rubio, and Cruz were like third graders fighting on the playground.  Kasich was like the nerd eager to hang out with the cool guys wishing he had what it took to get into the fight.

A rich  man never has to act like he is rich, he just is.  A strong man doesn’t have to knock things over to prove he is strong, he just iscreaming childs.  A wise man doesn’t have to talk about how wise he is, he just exhibits wisdom.  The weak and insecure are the one’s who scream.

Carson was, “Mr. Cool,” and though it is apparent in the media today few actually paid much attention to  him. “Everyone has equal rights, but not extra rights.”   Then when he referred to the “Fruit salad of our lives,”  he stepped even  further above the frey.  It took a while, but CNN and FOX finally figured out his reference was Matthew 7:16, ‘by their fruits you will know them.’  The “top rung” of candidates may have some good vines, but the fruit produced last night was  rotten.   In no way could I vote for a liberal or socialist, those platforms are  entirely  in opposition to God’s Word, still, I am frustrated with the conservative choices.

Listening to “the people” in my community and those interviewed on television, most are as disgusted as I am.  However, apparently, there are millions that are basking it it all.  The media loves it and seems to be able to sort it all out.   I totally ‘get’ differing ideas, but I can’t grasp that men who believe they can lead and represent the United States, host, and negotiate with other world leaders can act like adolesent scrapping children.  I ‘get it’ that it is going to take a bold, unapologetic conservative leader to begin to turn this old ship around, but these men need to mature a great deal before they are ready to do so.   Every screaming soundbite was inappropriate and  will be used by the opposition in the final campaign.

More than thirty years ago there was a major conflict in the Southern Baptist Convention over the conservative/moderate camps in oppositoin to the more liberal  Baptists.  The outward issues were the inerrency of the Bible, women pastors, and to a lesser degree the gay movement.  There were other issues, but these were the outward expressions of the opposing camps.  I traveled with conservative leaders as the singer to a number of events.  We drove,  we flew, we walked, etc.  I sang many songs and led a lot of choirs.   I really didn’t know  what all was going on, I simply loved to sing and share Christ with my music, but I observed and learned a great deal.

As I traveled I began to witness absured behavior in both camps.  These men were hateful to each other.  They had to have their way.  Leaders would be on the platform debating the issues and church members and zealous new believers had to watch the spectacle.  Young pastors who came with great antipcation, eager to meet the leaders of this “Great Commission” organization left dejected and I know of some who left the ministry.   I was shaken, but  had I not been mature enough in my faith to be secure in Christ and in my calling,  I would have walked out and never returned. These godly leaders, acting ungodly, “hurt a lot of children.” I often said, “The liberals think the conservatives are idots and the conservatives think the liberals are lost.” 

Again, I “got it” that there were differing ideas, but to act as they did turned me totally away from convention participation.  The unbelieveing media, newspapers, TV, and  radio, observed all of this foolishness and had a hayday.  I was embarrassed and  I haven’t attended a national SBC  event since.

Back to the election, I’m not throwing in the towel, and I will vote.  However, regardless of who the Republican candidate is in November, he will recieve my vote.  I will pray without ceasing for our country, for my children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and for you and yours.

IOWA 2016

The IOWA CIRCUS… CAUCUS…THE HAWKEYE CAUK-EYE…. I realize this a serious and an important event, but I have laughed ouCircust loud many times during the build up to February 1.   Anyone who knows me realizes I am one of the “curses of the world,” a Christian, right-wing  conservative, white, white-haired baby boomer, but the candidates and voters on all thirty or so sides have brought a great deal humor and sometime embarrassment. (I enjoy  reading newspapers from other countries, but yes, as I read, I get angry and embarrassed at how they look at us.)  In fifteen minutes of broadcast time, we learn that each candidate is the finest most qualified person on the planet  and in the same fifteen minutes are told they are all idiots with absolutely no candidate qualified.  One single soundbite out of context from each candidate makes him or her the most brilliant or the biggest idiot.  The whole thing is a hoot.  
I love to watch the recent “man on the street” interviews from FOX and CNN.   Person after person on the east coast have no idea where Iowa is, not just millenniIowaals, but senior citizens as well.   I laughed out loud, but it really isn’t all that funny. As a Midwesterner, I believe it was in the fourth grade in Southeast Elementary, we HAD to learn  the locations of all the states. Yes, I know where all the states are and I think I can name the capitals; I know my wife, Dorothy, knows them all. In addition,  I’d venture to say ALL the students in our school sixty years ago can still identify Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut …etc. 
We were expected to know our senators, representatives, and certainly our president and VP. In the man on the street interview, all knew who Obama is, but  few coulSenate seald identify the picture of our Vice-President.  Of course, all knew Adele, Howard Stern, Jenifer Lopez, and the cast of “Naked and Afraid.”  However,  only a few knew how many senators are in the senate, the branches of government, nor how many judges sit on the Supreme Court. One college student when asked the years of the Civil War she answeredCivil Ward, I think in the 1950’s;  A COLLEGE STUDENT.    Few knew where Benghazi is, one adult man thought Benghazi was a model of a car.    This is basic stuff, not the knowledge of only the serious scholar AND THESE PEOPLE VOTE…..

Oil rig
Most have a favorite candidate, but are clueless why.  Many are excited about the prospects of lots of “free stuff” from certain candidates, yet are unaware of the impact of taxes on themselves, much less businesses. Most were against “big oil,” but didn’t know why.  The people interviewed all appeared  to be not only American citizens, but grew up and were educated in the States.

“Ah, Bill, these are just a few people that were picked out to make fun of.” I’m sure there is a certain amount of truth in that, however,  I believe it is more true than not.  I am greatly concerned that people vote or caucus without knowledge of what they are voting for. As a “Baptist church guy,” I have always felt that only ACTIVE members should make decisions concerning the church. Even though all members generally have a right to vote, if a person is not active, he is clueless and can cause great damage to the body.  
The  point of this light-hearted, but serious  “fulmination” is, KNOW WHY  YOU VOTE FOR YOUR CANDIDATE! If you honestly stand on the left, at least know why. Take the time to know the issues and don’t follow your emotions.   It is too serious to be flippant or to be a clueless “air-head.”  if you are “on the right,” know why you stand where you stand.  Be HOT OR COLD.
My passion is for Christ and His Word and I would truly believe a president totally sold out to Christ would be, by far, the very best president.   I believe, I know, God was the foundation of our founding fathers.  Our country WAS birthed on faith in God and many of the early leaders not only believed in God but trusted Christ Jesus.    I do, however,  know that Christ isn’t very “popular” in 21st century America.
I have not made my final decision for whom I will vote in the Georgia primary. It is pretty clear I am a conservative. Likely in the months to come I will unapologetically make a stand. However,  I will say I will not vote for a candidate who has the desire to continue this anti God, anti faith, freedom and “tolerance ” for everyone except those to have a deep faith in Jesus.
Is the Iowa caucus all that important?  Well, I’m not certain.  It has brought us all a great deal of entertainment and some drams.  What I am certain of is that God is still in charge and “If His people, who are called by His name, will humble themselves, seek His face, and turn from their wicked ways, He will  hear from heaven, forgive their sins, and heal their land.” 

Religion in School

Last week a high school friend of mine posted a question on Face Book, “Should ‘religion’ be taught in School?” and then posed “would that be all religion or just mine?”  

It was late, I was tired, but as I pondered the question, thoughts just began to pour out of me. So, I began to write.  I didn’t start out to write an essay, but…….  (BTW, I’m not hung up on the “Prayer in School” issue. I didn’t include prayer as an issue in my commPrayerents that night, but I guarantee I prayed in school. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that prayer is the only reason I ever received a degree of any kind.

I don’t understand why the “screaming zealots” should expect unbelievers to act and think like believes.  God loves everyone, but if they don’t know Him, why should they think we should pray?  I do believe, however, the reason prayer has “officially” been thrown out and that governments and administrators attempt to ignore God, is that they are afraid they might have to answer to Him.  There is that “God shaped void” in everyone’s life, that hard as they try, they cannot ultimately ignore.

Here are my late night comments:

No! Religion should not be taught in public schools. However, to deny  God and to reprimand faith has brought us to where we are today.

Though certainly not all were Christians, previous generations in America, the men and women that built this nation, were trained in schools that recognized God. There are great men and women who are not religious, yet they respect the constitutional right for others to exercise their faith. I do not believe the schools are a place for religious rituals, but why, after multiple generations of successful education, has it become a bad thing to openly have faith.

Insecure people have to demand power and control.  If they acknowledge God, that takes away their ultimate power. They have to recognize they are not “all knowledge.” This exacerbates their insecurity and they ignore God.

I am amused by the atheist that whines because people practice faith in something that “doesn’t exist”.  If God doesn’t exit, what ‘s the big deal?  He is obviously afraid he might be wrong.

Back to the religion in school issue: A strong man never has to “act” strong, he just is.   A truly rich man never has to “act” rich, he just is. A smart man ever has to “act” smart, he just is.  A man of faith, doesn’t have to “act out his religion,” you can see it in his actions, they way he lives his life,  and that scares “today’s progressive man.”

The “good old days” weren’t all that good. We had problems in schools, we got in fights, we even argued with teachers and administrators, but at the end of the day, there was respect for each other. Sometimes we were offended, insulted. Sometimes we didn’t win, yet we learned how to live life I the real world. Two guys could punch each other in the nose, but then go drink a cup of coffee together.   Whiners just had to whine and we would stay, “Grow up, you don’t always get your way.  That’s the way life is.”

No, religion should not be taught in school, but the principles of faith and how to live life are mapped out in the Bible. We are in the mess we are in today, because what is taught in, what I believe to be God’s Word, has been thrown out.

Christmas Day, 2015

This has been a MERRY CHRISTMAS!  For Dorothy had me, it has been what has become a “normal” Christmas with her baking and me doing things around the house; today was working in the garage.  Mid afternoon we went to our Christmas Banquet at the Waffle House.  No, we haven’t been abandoned by our fWaffle Houseamily.  Christmas Eve we spent with our son-in-law, Troy’s, family and tomorrow we will be with our children and grandchildren at our son, Bob and daughter-in-law, Krissy’s home in South Metro Atlanta.  Bill Jr. and his wife Cheryl will be there as will as some of our grandchildren, Trevor, Emily, and Jena.  We saw Will and his family and Morgan  last month.

Today follows a wonderful Christmastime that I have mentioned in a previous post.  Added to the festivities,  this week I had the opportunity to sing with a group from the Jubal Chorus as the choir for Keith and Kristyn Getty’s JOY…An Irish ChristmasGetty Concert 15 With special guests, Ricky Skaggs and Buddy Greene, it was an amazing evening at the “Fabulous Fox” in downtown Atlanta.

As much as I have enjoyed 2015, I look forward, with great anticipation, to 2016.  I celebrate the past and thoroughly enjoy remembering all the years and events that have brought me to this day, but i don’t live in the past.  There is always a new day, another opportunity, for me, a another new song.

I pray you have a wonderful New Year.  As messed up as the world is this Christmas evening, God is still in charge, He’s not caught off guard.  As my friend, David Ring, often says, “God never says, ‘Oops.'”

Return to The Holy Land

JerusalemSea of GalileeDorothy and I will return to Israel/Palestine, The Holy Land, October 24-November 2, 2016.  We where in Israel this past October on a concert tour with the Sons of Jubal. We began traveling to The Holy Land back in the mid 70’s.  We love this land.

WE INVITE YOU TO JOIN US.  This is a life-changing place.  God’s Word becomes vividly alive and you’ll never study the Bible the same again.  The cost of the trip came in considerably lower than I had anticipated when I contracted with Travelink for the trip.  If you would like to consider going with us, just email,  I’ll email a brochure with the details or I’ll drop one in snail-mail.  The sooner the registration, the more apt we will be able to get the best flights.

Though I have been to Israel a number of times, this past October we traveled with Georgia Baptist’s SONS OF JUBAL for my very first concert tour of the Holy Land. It was amazing as we present the gospel in concerts from Nazareth, Bethlehem, and in Jerusalem.  I believe there were eight “official” concerts and a number of impromptu opportunities to lift up Jesus in song.

Though all were wonderful concerts, there are two favorites.

1.  The Christians Schools in Nazareth. I was blown away with the response of high schoolers.  These kids were amazing. I fell in love with each one of them.  These teenagers loved the music of a bunch of American men, about half of us, “geezers.”   We didn’t sing “pop or rock.” We sang some really fun songs, but also sang some “classical style” sacred music and even rang hand bells.  The  kids consumed the music.  Sadly, most American students wouldn’t give us the time of day.  I still love our American students, but I wish they would stop and listen to us sometime.  Students in Nazareth20151006_055743









2.  My second “favorite” was the concert at David’s Citadel.  I have attended concerts in this ancient theater, but never dreamed I would be singing here.  This is a portion of an ancient tower that was not distroyed by Titus in  70 A. D.  It is believe to be the place where Jesus was tried.   The amphitheater was full, the night was beautiful, and God got all over us.SoJ at David's CitadelSoJ at David's Citadel 2

A mid December evening

December 12, 2015    This has been a week…uh, make that a year.  The following is not a recap of the entire year or The Annual Coen Christmas Letter; actually, I don’t ever remember writing one of those.  This is, however, reflections of what is on my heart this evening.  We just completed Christmas Celebration 2015, To North Georgia, with Love froLevel Grove Choir and Children CC15m The Level Grove Baptist Church in Cornelia, Georgia.  This was my thirty-fifth Christmas musical of this type.  I led Christmas Cantatas the previous fifteen or so years of my ministry, but in ’81, with the help of Dave and Karen Boyd and FBC Bartlesville, Oklahoma, I changed direction.  We began to add drama, not just a narrator, we added  contemporary and even popular music, and comedy, yet always with a vivid thread of and bold presentation of the Gospel of Jesus.  The stories written were about life, they always contain a crisis of belief, and are resolved with the Gospel, the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus.

This year a Level Grove was no different, and yet it was. The total joy and complete abandon of lifting up Jesus had a freshness to it.  Don’t get me wrong, we have had glorious celebrations in each church I have had the opportunity to serve.  I have served very large churches as weBill and Children CC15ll as smaller        congregations and have had to adjust to the size of the platforms. (I really miss many of those wonderful folks who partnered with me over the past fifty years.  What is really cool is that I get to keep up with many of them through email and Face Book and through this site.)   Yet,  in my “old age,” seeing these North Georgia young adults and children being supported and encouraged by a group of us geezers in such an uncomfortable time in our world, simply energized me way  beyond my actual ability to lead.  I am so humbled and  honored that in my “retirement” God has seen fit to not  just keep an old guy busy, but to allow me to still serve.

This world is really in a turmoil.   Being a baby-boomer who came along just after World War II and remembering Korea, as horrific as those wars were, there is a nostalgia from the stories from The Greatest Generation.  It was clear who the enemy was and we fought to win. Today, the enemy is far more elusive and it certainly seems there is no plan to win.

My point is not to be political, though anyone who knows me is certain I am a Right-Winged Conservative Christian. My point is that people in virtually all walks of life are like “a fiddler on the roof;” the are balancing and could easily fall. Folks go about their business attempting to ignore the big picture so they can keep their sanity and live life, but when they stop and consider all that is around them, they become so vulnerable to the enemy, the political enemy and Satan himself.    God hasn’t called me to save the world,  but He does expect me to use the gifts He has given me to show  His love and grace to the world He has put me in.  One of the ways I can do that is through the music He has planted in me.  He has called me to remind folks that those who trust in Christ Jesus WIN.  What I do is no doubt trivial to  many, but if God can use me to lead someone to find Christ or encourage a believer to find a fresh relationship with Him, I figure that is a pretty good job.