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story.lead_photo.caption The California senior choir offers special music through the song, "My Prayer for You," May 15, 2019, at the Baccalaureate Service at the performing arts center. Photo by Liz Morales / California Democrat.

A baccalaureate service of grace and strength was provided May 15 to the 2019 graduating class of California High School by members of the California Ministerial Alliance at the performing arts center.

Songs of victory and leadership rang through the auditorium, led by Pastor Jeremy Barnard as well as a song of blessing for the class performed by the senior choir.

The message from Ephesians 2:8 was delivered by Pastor Evandro Kopper of St. Paul's Lutheran Church.

"A beautiful chapter from the book of Ephesians," Kopper said. "This is where the apostle Paul tells us how to live."

"I want to share a story with you about this wise man that lived at the top of a mountain. Everyone in the land knew the man would answer all the questions anyone would give him. So one day, two boys decided to challenge the old wise man."

This challenge the two adolescents gave to the old wise man involved a bird that was placed in their hands.

The young man asked the old man if the bird in his hands was dead or alive. After some consideration, the old wise man gave his answer.

"The bird is in your hands," said the old wise man.

Kopper said the old wise man knew that if he said the bird was dead, the young man would crush it in his hands. If the answer was "alive," then the bird would be let go. Thus, the answer was: the bird is in your hands.

"The answer to a lot of situations in our lives is this," Kopper said. "It's in your hands. You see, just think about it. The only reason why you are a 2019 graduate is because you worked and studied a lot. Is that true? Yes. You woke up in the morning, came to school almost every day, and you are here."

You have worked hard and you deserve it, Kopper told his audience.

Kopper reminded the soon-to-be graduates they are finished with this element in their education. Now it's time to seriously consider the future.

"You're always thinking about your future," he said. "You just don't think about your present. Some will be doctors, nurses, mechanics. Or farmers. Some of you might not know yet. And that's fine. But the bottom line is, if you study and work hard, you have a future. With the studies and working, you can accomplish almost anything that you want."

Anything, except one thing, Kopper said.

"No matter how much you struggle and how much you work for it," he said. "You may be the nicest person in the world, you may be the richest, smartest person. But you will never accomplish that on your own. It's in the Bible, that answer is. It's something that's free. For it is by grace you have been saved. Grace is a free gift from God. It becomes yours not through your own efforts, but the blood and suffering from Jesus Christ."

Each graduate's future is in God's hands, Kopper continued.

"You will have days all your life when you will feel frustrated, feel disappointed and you will have days when you just want to give up," he said. "But please don't do it. When those days come, remember to fold your hands and ask God to guide you and give you strength."

The words of blessing and well-wishing were followed by Pastor Joe Banderman of First Baptist Church. He presented two awards of the Ivan S. Dameron Scholarship for $500 each to Emily Bilyeu and Isaac Ash.

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