Wednesday Edition

 

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After a fast trip to Nashville and back, Missy and I are finally home.  Micah is officially moved into the freshman dorm at Lipscomb University.  As you can image, we are very proud of him.  The easy part was getting everything unloaded – the difficult part was watching my melancholy son organize everything.  Everything has to be “symmetrical.”  As a sanguine, I don’t understand things like this (Missy does).  We were able to get the things he would need and settled in.  A big shout out to the Otter Creek Church who sent several members to help unload vehicles into dorm rooms.  It saved my back much pain, as well as time.  That night Micah texted Missy to let her know he was headed out to get ice cream with some of the guys.  This was music to our ears.  Micah arrived on campus not really knowing anyone.  The next morning we were going to bring more supplies he needed for his room, but he was getting ready to go play racquetball with some folks.  The last night we asked him if he wanted to go out with us one more time before heading out early the next morning – he wanted to stay on campus and be involved with some of the stuff going on.  We are going to miss Micah at home, including the weekly visits of his girlfriend Mollie (headed to Ole Miss), but this is what we have been preparing him to do for years.  Our little bird is ready to fly the nest.  Things are “symmetrical.”  Now we pray Lipscomb will give him the other tools he needs for life.  However, we are looking forward to Thanksgiving!

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While in Nashville I became famous.  Missy and I heard about this great pizza place and went there for lunch.  As we walk in, we find out they are taping the “Ben and Kellie Show” that comes on television.  I remember Kellie more for American Idol a few years back, but now she has her own talk show.  They taped me doing what I do best – eating. I’m guessing I will be on an upcoming show.  Please no autographs during worship.

On a more serious note, I have heard so many positives about Payton’s first sermon.  He just moved in and I had to ask him to speak.  I told him he didn’t have to do the current sermon series, but he was happy to do it.  I cannot tell you how excited I am that he and Darian are here.  Payton brings a unique and creative aspect to the ministry staff.  He is grounded in Scripture and loves God.  More to come…

Speaking of sermon series, I want to tell you about something I have wanted to do for years.  Beginning September 9th, I will be teaching and preaching through the same book of the Bible – Galatians.  In the morning class I can give more details to the text and the sermon more application.  This, in my opinion, will really open up a clearer understanding of God’s Word contextually and for our lives.

However, we have another week of our “I Am Jesus” series.  This Sunday is the final lesson – “I Am the Vine.”  I began studying last week, and can attest that what Jesus says here has the potential to change your life!

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What A Weekend!

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The one we have been praying about, since January, finally arrived Saturday night.  Of course, we didn’t know who that person would be until the end of June.  Our God came through and Payton and Darian rolled into Vero in their bright yellow Penske truck.  We had around 20 waiting to welcome them and unload the truck.  Lonnie Ledford wasn’t there when they arrived, but he had already spent four hours getting their yard ready.  Carlene Wiley not only took charge of the gift basket, but had spent a couple of hours before their arrival to make sure the house was ready.  Get this: she even baked homemade cookies so they would smell like “home” when the Minzenmayer’s walked into their new home!  It is the little details that go a long way.  Also, a special thanks to everyone who helped contribute around $1,000 worth of goods and gift cards!  We also had a different crew of guys help unload Payton’s boxes (and couch) for his office.  And get this, even as I am writing this (7:30 am), Payton has joined me at Panera ready to get started!

Two of our Care Groups met yesterday for a time of fellowship.  They put out a big spread.  Lots of conversation and smiling faces.  These are very important to get to know each other and visitors.

After lunch ministry leaders spent over two hours working on “The Vine Project.”  If you don’t know, this is a two year work the leadership has dedicated themselves for the future of this congregation.  This is about culture, not changing the Bible.  In fact, it is a closer look at Scripture.  It isn’t about copying the model of a church that has grown.  It is about assessing ourselves and moving in the right direction.  The future is bright!

20180805_171941[7629]Sunday evening Sasha, Deja and Troy talked about their time in Antigua.  Listening to them, you can tell it was a life changing trip.  Even though Troy and Sasha have become veteran’s, they still have new experiences with the church and community.  Deja, the rookie, is ready to go on her next trip.  It is great to watch their faces light up talking about their time.  Most encouraging was listening to Troy talk about his first year and coming back and teaching Deja the things he had learned about talking to others about Jesus.  Even after baptism, her faith has grown and has now become a part of the next group to learn ways to disciple others.  Who will be the next to go with them?

The fellowship was strong yesterday.  Sunday morning and Sunday night people stayed around for long periods of time to talk with each other.  When I left last night, it was an hour after the young adults had finished.  Not only that, but there were still about 10 or 15 people standing around and talking to each other.  Some of you do a good job extending those conversations to restaurants, coffee houses and ice cream shops.  Don’t see our meeting times as an hour activity, but something to be shared with others.  And guess what?  It is ok to invite others to join you at other times throughout the week.  Family.  Ask people you don’t know very well to join you and others.

This coming Sunday you are in for a treat as Payton will bring the sermon.  I have a high respect for his desire to know the Scriptures and see Jesus in our everyday world.  Let’s pack out the place.  And, from my experience in preaching, the more passionate and uplifting the congregational singing, the better my sermon gets.  Get ready for a great day of congregational worship.

THE WRAP UP:

As Christians, the Resurrection and the Life lives in us…right now!  There will be a great Day when Jesus returns to bring to completion His new creation of believers.  Yet, we are not waiting for resurrection and life because it is in us now!  The Holy Spirit of God resides in us.  Lazarus was used to demonstrate the glory of the Son of God!  Trust Him!  Allow your faith to grow.  Even if you still struggle with certain things, continue to rely upon Jesus more and more every day.  Only God can take a decaying body and bring it back to life four days later.  Jesus did this so we might believe!

The Good Shepherd

FB_IMG_1532946420047[7561]We are past the midway point in our series on I Am Jesus.  Sunday was one of the best known and loved pictures of the Messiah – the Good Shepherd.  The depth of these words cause us to pause and reflect; to be humbled and filled with praise; to be comforted and feel hopeful about the future.  Despite being… well… sheep (people who stray; set ourselves up for harm and overall fearful creatures), the Good Shepherd gave His life so we could have eternal life.  He took the death we deserved and became the lamb led to the slaughter.  He continues to protect His flock, not allowing the evil forces of the world to snatch us away from the fold.  Like a sheep is marked by its shepherd, to identify those that are his, the Good Shepherd has placed His mark, His Spirit, in us at baptism.  And even though we continue to act like sheep, who are prone to wonder, the Good Shepherd leaves the 99 to find the one who has gone astray.  What an amazing Savior!  The most important character of the sheep is faith and trust in Jesus.

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I don’t know about you, but my family is excited about Payton and Darian Minzenmayer moving to Vero this Saturday!  They are filled with ideas and ways to be like Jesus.  They bring an excitement for the young people of this congregation, as well as those of us who have a lot of grey in our beards.  It is the beginning of a new transition for this church.  I know many of you have been praying for them and their work with us.  I would like to ask you to continue the prayers, as well as for myself, the elders and all who take a leading role in this congregation.  There are great things coming and the Minzenmayer family will have a big part of that culture shift.

317d468fcbc2d0fec91b0d0a87f4bd8eSpeaking of leaders, we appreciate everyone’s patience since the projector went down.  I love songbooks.  I have a collection of several in my office.  I guess you could say I was raised on those things.  That said, I love having everything on the screen.  The singing is better because our faces are not buried in a book.  Also, it only takes a couple of weeks to realize how heavy those hymnals are (the older generation was stronger).  The worst part, is not being able to sing our newer songs that are not in the book.  Don’t worry, help is on the way.  We hope it will be ready by this week, but if not we will go old school another week.  A big thanks to David Brooker, Bill Raikes and Ladell Young for helping out in hymnal singing yesterday.  The songbook to the right is the one I was raised on and included the 10 commandments for using the book.  I’m pretty sure my parents broke the command of not hitting your kids with it. 🙂

Speaking of singing, the last several Wednesday nights have been a special class entitled Then Sings My Soul.  The class has looked at various songs we have sung over the years and information about them.  This week I will be taking a little different route.  We are going to look into several Psalms, the Bible’s hymnbook, and note the ways the believing community would have sung those songs, what they meant to them, and of course, what they mean to us.  I will also play songs based on these psalms, you have never heard before.  I believe many of you will find comfort in some of these great psalms.

28378450_10214137485543544_7496655661931747136_nFriday afternoon, Mad Money Mike and myself went to the movies.  I walk in and see a movie poster that almost had me in tears.  I couldn’t believe it!  The AMC Theatre at the Mall will be playing the Elvis’ comeback special from 1968!  Hello!  It is the 50th anniversary of that special.  They are only playing it two days in August (15th and 20th).  Fran Mooney and myself are getting up a group to go with us.  If you are interested let me know.  We may need to buy our tickets now.  I am going to get more information, but it looks like the tickets are $15 (you have to pay for quality) and it airs at 7:30 pm.  Sorry the picture is blurry, my hand was shaking at the time (have mercy).  Thank you, thank you very much.

untitledThis Sunday is our monthly Care Group Luncheon.  It is the Andersson/Young folks (A-B & S-Z).  Those in this group will receive another email this week detailing food plans.  Also, that night, is our monthly congregational get-together.  Along with our monthly birthday celebrations, we have a special treat – Sasha, Deja and Troy will be reporting on their mission trip to Antigua @ 5 pm.  Let’s all try to come out and support these young people and be an encouragement to them.

Speaking of our young people, this is Sasha’s last week in the office.  She will be heading off to the AIM program for training and eventually assigned a place to do missions.  This is great program and we wish her well.  Also, our college students will be leaving over the next few weeks to their various schools.  Micah will be a part of the migration as he heads for Lipscomb.  That leaves Missy and I with one child left in the house.  It is hard to believe we have gone from 6 to 3, in the house, since beginning here nine years ago.  I’m thinking about holding Bella back a few grades.  Seriously, let’s start praying for these young people.

Two of those college “kids” had a wedding shower yesterday.  A big thanks to everyone who made it special for Brittany and Garrett.  Brittany has been working with our children this summer and we wish them well when they head back to Arkansas in a couple of weeks.

While we are on the subject of wedding showers, Kirsten Wild will have hers August 19th.  Her and Michael DeLoach are registered at Target, Amazon and Bed, Bath and Beyond.  I really love all our young adults and seeing them during these milestones in their lives.

Alright I have written enough.

Old School Worship

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Yesterday we went “old school”… sort of.  A minute before worship was to begin, the projector went out.  I appreciate the guys who tried to get it up and going.  Some even worked afterwards trying to fix it.  But what are you going to do?  Pull out those old songbooks.  Which is great, except we had three songs planned that were not in the book.  It just so happen the singing landed in my lap, due to some unforeseen issues.  Not a complaint, I have been gone all week on a spiritual retreat and was ready for the challenge.  I was picking out the song before the prayer while leading the first two songs.  Ha!  It was great.  We made it through it and the singing was uplifting.  You do notice people’s faces buried in their books, unlike when we have the songs on the screen.  Other than that, it was good.  Then there were my PowerPoints slides for the sermon.  It really wasn’t that big a deal.  We should probably turn off the computers and screens every so often.  My dad, who led singing for almost 50 years, used to have a Sunday where we would sing one or two verses of various songs without the books.  That was in back in the 80’s and 90’s B.P. (Before PowerPoint).  Anyway, there was something nostalgic hearing phrases like “turn in your hymnbook to…”; or “mark in your books number… for our invitation song.”  Don’t get me wrong, I love modern technology, but it is good to visit the past.  Next Sunday we are shutting off the air conditioning and wearing overalls (maybe not).

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Speaking of PowerPoints, I had a funny picture I wanted to share yesterday morning in my lesson.  It is the “fat-tailed sheep” found in Israel.  There is no deeply spiritual point to make – it just made me laugh out loud when I saw it.  It might put a smile on your face this Monday morning.

I mentioned the spiritual retreat.  It was sort of like a mini sabbatical that I was able to share with Missy and the McGee’s.  Evidently this has been ongoing for the last 40+ years.  It was held at Paris Landing State Park in Paris, Tennessee.  The pictures above were sunrises.  One from the balcony of my room and another from one of the other participants.  Unfortunately, they will be demolishing the hotel in a couple of weeks to build a newer facility.  So next year will be at another state park somewhere in Tennessee.

As beautiful as the scenery was outside, the people inside were even more stunning.  We made many new friends this week.  For example, one morning I had coffee with a 90 year old man from Huntsville, Alabama.  We talked for about an hour.  He served in the Korean War, worked as an engineer for NASA, married Miss Oklahoma 1947 (who has sense passed), lead many people to Christ and started a ministry for drug addicts and alcoholics.  After I learned all of this he said, “I’ve talked enough, tell me about yourself.”  I was like, “uh, I was raised in a small town, barely made it through school and married a woman I consider Miss America.”  So many interesting people of all ages.  Our worship together was moving and uplifting.  Keith Lancaster led us in praise everyday and the 200 people, in the basement of that hotel, sang with great emotion and passion.  The speakers were all fantastic, whether they were the ones preaching, teaching a class or telling us about their ministry.  But this wasn’t the typical lectureship/seminar – it was about building a community of believers.  It was transparent and transformational.  I don’t have the words to truly give it justice.  All I can say is I will be back next year, Lord willing, and hope to establish something like this with our congregation.  One of the pictures above is of a 16 year old (legally blind) girl reading Scripture from her brail Bible.  Hannah is an amazing young lady with amazing parents.  The other picture is of the last night when they prayed over the ministers who came.  We need it as much as anyone else.

We also had fun.  Acappella sang one night.  Those of you who have followed them for years, recognize Keith Lancaster, Anthony Lancaster, Rodney Britt and George Pendergrass.  Keith’s daughters also joined them for a few songs, and yes, all the Lancaster’s can sing!  Keith also did a bit with his grandson (dad jokes!).  It was a great night.

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Last, but not least, the service dog (Roxy) I mentioned during worship yesterday.  This is what she did when she sensed someone was feeling anxiety in the room.  Maybe it is because I go through those moments, but this was one of the highlights of my time.

THE WRAP UP:

Let’s end by focusing our attention on the “Door of the Sheep.”  The Good Shepherd is the one who saves us, protects us and leads us out to find nourishment and refreshment.  We know Him, and even more amazing, He knows us by name!  Beware of false teachers who would diminish our Shepherd.  As we spiritually mature, our love for Jesus should grow beyond measure.  Next week we take this even further.  Read John 10 this week.  Meditate on it.  Pray through it.

Welcome to Alabama

Yesterday afternoon I flew out of Orlando and into the beautiful (and very hot) landscape of Alabama.  The scenery was even more stunning as I walked out of the Birmingham airport and picked up by my wife and daughter.  Every July Missy visits her mother to help around the house.  I know it was only July 15th, but I was missing her and Bella.  But I’m not here for a social visit.  Mike and Susan McGee met us in Anniston.  We stayed the night at Missy’s mom’s house and will be leaving this morning for a spiritual retreat in Paris, Tennessee.  The McGee’s have been going to this for years and telling us how great it is.  This year worked out for us and we are excited to go.  Please pray for our travels and a great spiritual renewal.

That said, I will be back by next Sunday to look into our next “I Am” statement of Jesus.  The Lord uses a metaphor we are not as familiar with in this part of the world – the sheep gate.  Each one of these give a new perspective on the God who came down and put on human flesh.  We will be in John 10.

Personally, I enjoyed teaching the Jonah class yesterday.  It is such an amazing book that still resonates with us today.  The second chapter is easy to skip over, or at least, not put a lot of thought into.  But as we saw yesterday, it is filled with information about this guy Jonah, and of course, us!

Yesterday we had so many visitors from out of town, and in the area.  It was great seeing so many of you approach them and make sure they felt at home.  We even had Darian Minzenmayer’s parents with us.  The anticipation is building as they will be here in just a few weeks!  Continue to pray for them in the sale of their house, transitioning for the church they are leaving and limited stress with the move.  Also, pray for all of our visitors who were with us as they will be traveling back to their homes or live in our area trying to find a church family.

THE WRAP UP:

As God’s people, may we go out into our world shining the light of the Word.  You do not have to pick up a newspaper, look on social media, etc., to see the darkness.  We come in contact with darkness everyday.  The Messiah has come and placed His light in us.  By God’s Spirit, we have been given the power to follow and serve the Father.  Let His light live in you and through you.

It’s Great to Be Back!

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It has been a crazy month and a half.  I was out of the pulpit four weeks, as our ministry candidates delivered sermons on their visits.  I did get to preach the last Sunday of June, only to go the following weekend to speak at a youth conference in Montgomery, Alabama (pictured above).  However, this week kicked off a seven week sermon series.  I love preaching series, and beginning a new one gives me a feeling of normalcy.  With the exception of the second week in August (moving Micah to Lipscomb), I will be in the pulpit.  And, just so you know, the week I am out our new minister will be preaching!

Speaking of Payton, he and Darian are trying to sell their house in Oklahoma.  They have had an open house and one request for a private viewing.  No offers yet, but we need to pray that it sells so they do not have that stress moving.  Also, continue to pray for their ministry with us.  He brings a unique outlook for our community and young people.  And just to get the teens excited, he will have his first big event with them August 31st-September 2nd for SonQuest in Orlando!

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It was great seeing Sasha Chisholm, Deja Miller and Troy Wiley back with us yesterday.  They had a successful mission trip to Antigua.  Cornelius George says hello.  I love talking to young people who come back for these trips.  They are so excited and have a new perspective.  It was Deja’s first trip (Sasha and Troy are veterans) and she was bursting at the seams Sunday morning telling me about her experience.

This Wednesday we begin a new adult class in the Fellowship Hall – Then Sings My Soul.  Each week we will look into various songs.  We will talk about its background, relate Scripture to their meaning, applications for today and, of course, sing the song.  Several of us will take part in teaching and leading each week.

Speaking of classes, Mark Andersson did a great job Sunday morning.  I’m not sure why he was so nervous, his thoughts on Jonah were excellent.  We are blessed to have so many who can teach our many classes, from babies to the oldest adults.  Jonah is one of those books that has many levels of learning.  Next week I get to take a crack at it.

Next Saturday is our BIG children’s day, Splish Splash It’s A Water Party Bash!  Brittany Wells has been working hard to make this happen.  She has a large water slide rented for the occasion, as well as other activities.  Remember, children under 5 must be accompanied by a parent.  Bring your swimsuit, towel, and a friend.\

UPDATES:

  • As of this morning, three more boys have been brought out of the cave in Thailand.  It is still a very difficult situation, but the news has been good so far.
  • One of the Haitian mission groups have made it back to America.  More riots broke out again yesterday.  The group that made it home was a congregation I preached for in Nashville, Riverwood Church of Christ, many are friends of mine.  Thank you for the prayers.  Please continue to pray for the situation in Haiti.  This country already has so many problems.  There are still mission teams from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee.  Most of these have not been able to leave.  I was contacted about another group last night that covets our prayers.
  • Add to your prayers the people in Japan.  At least 100 have died and dozens missing due to flooding and landslides caused by heavy rains.
  • Keep praying for our country.  There is so much division, anger, hatred, violence, etc. among political groups.  We need healing.  Today will be the announcement of a Supreme Court nomination.  This is going to create even more tension.  Abortion will be the hot topic.  Pray not only for this decision, but also for its outcome.  In our prayers, may we ask the Father to help us stay focused on His Kingdom and power.  Even if Roe vs. Wade is overturned it will not stop abortions.  The only thing that can stop the killing of the innocent is Jesus.  May we understand this is the only thing that can truly change our world, not laws.  However, we understand that God is in charge of the nations and can do things behind the scenes that we may never know in our lifetime.  Don’t get caught up in the hate and divisiveness in our country.  Focus on the Kingdom of God, which flows throughout all nations.

THE WRAP UP:

Many of you expressed your love for the “I Am” statements of Jesus in the Book of John.  They have always been some of my favorites.  We got off to a good start allowing chapter 6, as it led us into an understanding of the bread of life.  To eat of this bread, means we absorb the life and being of the Messiah.  To trust Him, rather than ourselves, to have a life eternal.  Jesus is God.  Jesus is a gift.  Jesus is grace.  Release yourself from trying to “earn” your way to salvation and put your faith in the One who freely gives.  Stop desiring a Messiah who will take care of all your physical needs, although He welcomes our petitions, and focus on the eternal things.  Go to the Father today and worship Him for sending His Son into the world to save us.  Praise Jesus for His love for us.  And extol the Spirit for giving us an eternal perspective in a dying world.  The Bread of Life!  Absorb His ways and being, not so you can be save, but because He is our Savior!

Lots of Great News!

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Yesterday, it was announced, Payton and Darian Minzenmayer will be working with this congregation.  We are excited about their arrival in August!  Until then, we ask you continue to pray for them – the sell of their house, packing, saying goodbyes and all the other stress that comes from moving hundreds of miles away.  I would also like for you to pray for their future with this congregation.  Now for us to get things ready for their arrival.

I have also heard from a couple of people, and seen comments on Facebook, about Steve Wilson’s lesson.  Knowing he would be preaching in my place allows me to relax while I’m gone.  He always does a great job.  Also, if you were like me and didn’t get to hear it, it is on our Facebook page.

Other great news, Sasha, Deja and Troy are in full mission mode in Antigua.  There are several pictures of them working engaging the community.  I am excited to hear about all they did and learned along the way.  We want to continue to pray for their work and to have a safe trip back to the states.

Finally, I have had a good trip to Faulkner University to speak to a group of young people.  Sometimes I forget how beautiful Alabama is when driving through those old towns.  It has been good seeing it again and engaging with the hospitable people of my state.  It was also nice hearing the singing group I was apart of at Faulkner, many moons ago.  This is the place Missy and I met and fell in love.  There has been a lot of great changes to the campus since I graduated in 1994.  I enjoyed worshiping with the Landmark Church of Christ yesterday morning.  The worship was very uplifting and Buddy Bell did a great job talking about faith and doubt.  They also had two baptisms.  The Lord’s Supper was also special and how they made it a real sense of communion with God’s family.  Last night was my first lesson; today I have two more and tomorrow morning will be my last.  After that I am planning to drive to Gainesville to see Noah before heading to Vero Wednesday.

Well, I need to get back to preparing for this mornings session.  Keep me in your prayers as I try to reach the heart of these young people with the message of Jesus.