Tis the Season

An Angel's View[1261]It is December 10th and we are in full Christmas mode.  This Sunday Mike O’Neil will be with us to speak about Angels and the Redemption Story.  He will share with us the amazing love of God for humanity through the angel’s activity in the redemption story.  From the angel Gabriel announcing the birth of Jesus to Mary, through the early stages of the spread of the gospel, to the angels proclamation of God’s plan and promises of His redemption story, these creatures of the Almighty have been powerful.  Sunday’s sermon will focus on the role of angels around the Nativity.  These stories not only tells us about angels, but about God as well, and their service to Him.  Also, Mike will be bring copies of his book An Angel’s View for those who may be interested.  This might be a good Christmas gift for someone or yourself.  A little about Mike: He worked with NASA for 31 years at Kennedy Space Center.  He served in leadership positions with the Space Shuttle, International Space Station and Exploration Programs.  He also provided spiritual support for astronauts on long missions.  He has done some great research on spirituality and spaceflight.  Most of all, he is a humble Christian man who loves the Lord.  We are looking forward to Mike preaching for us this Sunday.

47427729_2099479363408513_9080074803825606656_nOur annual Christmas Eve Luncheon is going to be here before we know it.  A big thank you to so many who have donated to our newest addition for our luncheon – Hunger to Hope (H2H).  The baskets in the foyer are flowing over with the items needed for the special bags for the less fortunate.  We still have room for more.  Also, if you are planning to help out you can do so on our website verobeach.church/h2h or just click here.  There are needs to help make up the bags and to serve on that day.  If you know anyone who financially struggles, lonely or physically unable to make a holiday meal, please invite them to join us.  More importantly, being praying for God’s blessing on this day.

The last couple of Wednesdays we have focused on the coming of the Messiah into our world, some 2,000 years ago.  This was one of the most important events in the history of the world, as the eternal, holy, almighty Creator stepped into creation to live among us.  For centuries, believers have used the four weeks leading to Christmas to prepare themselves for the birth of Jesus.  These are intended to observe the first coming while looking forward to Jesus’ 2nd Coming.  This week Ladell Young will lead our class on the subject of “love.”  We meet in the Fellowship Hall at 7 pm.

THE WRAP UP:

This week’s wrap is in fact, the wrap up of Galatians.  We have completed 14 weeks in this powerful letter of the Apostle Paul.  My prayer is that it has benefited you in some way.  A survey will be sent out later to assess the series.  It is the first time I have taught the context in Bible class and then preached its application in worship.  This week we will read all six chapters in Bible Class and have some concluding discussions.  We want the thrust of this letter to stay with us – only boasting is in the cross of Christ and to living and celebrating as new creations of God!

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My Favorite Things

It is that time of year again when I give a list of my favorite things for those looking for a few ideas.  Not all of these have deep spiritual value but more of a way of assisting the greater things. I also asked Payton to submit some of his favorite things.

STOCKING STUFFERS:

vine_project_250_394_90The Vine Project.  This is the book we have mentioned several times over the past year.  It is an excellent book, but more importantly, it is a greater way for you to understand more of what we are doing as leaders.  It will also help you understand why this is a long process and not something that can be rolled out in a month.  A “project” takes time and lots of prayer.  If you are wondering, the focus group is in phase 2 of the book. On Amazon you can purchase the book for $19.99 or the Kindle version for $9.99.

518BqydRnzL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_51VSYkH-e+LChurch History: The history of the Churches of Christ is an important part of who we are as a congregation.  Many people have heard of Alexander Campbell or Barton W. Stone, but few know much about our movement that began in the early 1800’s.  Two books I suggest are “Discovering Our Roots: The Ancestry of Churches of Christ” by C. Leonard Allen and Richard T. Hughes and “Renewing God’s people: A Concise History of Churches of Christ” by Gary Halloway and Douglas A. Foster.  These are easy reading.  I believe we must never forget where we came from, the good and the bad.  While Christ is our true identity and reason for being, our history helps us understand how we were shaped and the goal of the Restoration Movement.  You can find these for $15.59 and $15.99 on Amazon.

The Best Pen:  For all of you notetakers out there, you understand the importance of a good pen.  In times past I have mentioned the Pigmy pens for marking your Bible.  This is about writing notes in your Arc notebooks, bulletin or just taking notes.  A pen is a personal item so I will not recommend a specific kind.  There are many styles.  I will do the next best thing and let the experts help you.  The link counts down the top 100 pens!  If you are like me, you will head to the top 10.  Anyway, it is pretty interesting and is perfect to stuff in a stocking.  Click here to go to the website.  Prices vary based on what you like.

Highlighters: I don’t highlight in my Bible, but I do in researching for sermons and classes.  Some people love to highlight passages that stick out to them.  The problem with regular highlighters is they can bleed through the page.  There are a couple of types that are designed not to bleed, smear or fade.  One such type is the “Bible Safe Bible Highlighters.”  They come in six different colors and are $7.56 for the pack.  Joe Wild mentioned a type of highlighter he uses that comes out more like a crayon and doesn’t bleed.  Don’t worry, I questioned Joe to make sure it wasn’t using, in fact, a crayon. There is a brand called “Bible Dry Pencil”, with several colors, that can also be found on Amazon for $12.99.  If this fails, remember it was Joe’s idea.

71R9DVBXdvLMini Fan:  It is sad I am recommending a fan for a Christmas gift, but we live in Florida.  This is for the hot natured person in your life.  The “OPOLAR” battery operated fan is one of my favorite things this year.  Missy bought one for herself, and I sort of took it over.  I use it when teaching class and something in worship.  It is rechargeable and a single charge will last 10-40 hours (depending on the three settings).  It is also foldable, which allows it to be set down in different positions and in your pews!.  This fan is also endorsed by Cassandra Young, who has already invested in two since seeing Missy’s fan.  You can find these on Amazon for $24.99. It is totally worth the money.

Christian Music: I am a big fan of the Praise and Harmony project put out by Keith Lancaster.  Most of our new songs come from these CD’s.  They are acappella songs recorded by about 300 Christians.  You can click here to go to their store.  Just click on the “Praise & Harmony” section to find all the songs.  You can also find other acappella music from their various groups.  In the “Praise & Harmony” section you can buy CD’s or individual songs for your computer.  You will also be able to listen to pieces of songs.  The CD’s run about $19.99 for their newest and $16.99 for older ones.  The individual songs are $1.29.

PAYTON PICKS:

Payton offered up a few things he recommends, especially by way of leadership.  He is addicted to reading and narrowed it down to three books.  Here are his suggestions with his reviews:

51Yw8yoi+gL._AC_US327_QL65_How To Be Like Walt by Pat Williams. “That’s right, THE WALK DISNEY.  I believe that Walt Disney is more than a man.  He is a symbol of the values he represents: imagination, honesty, optimism, and vision.  There is much to learn from the life of Disney and the growth of his empire.”  You can find it on Amazon for $13.95 or Kindle for $9.99.

The Power of Positive Leadership by Jon Gordon.  “Many leaders face numerous obstacles, negatively, and tests on a consistent basis.  That’s why positive leadership is so crucial!  Gordon fills this small book with practical ways to build a great culture, unite your organization, and develop connected teams all through positivity.”  You can get this book on Amazon for $17.

519-dO7OvLL._AC_US327_QL65_Leadership and Self-Deception by The Arbinger Institute.  “This is a mind-boggling book and a global phenomenon in the world of leadership.  Told through narrative form, the authors expose the fascinating way that we bind ourselves to our true motivation and unwillingly sabotage our own efforts to improve performance and achieve success.”  This can be purchased on Amazon for $12 or Kindle for $9.99.

Payton also suggested some board games that would be good in promoting family time or with others. He goes beyond the traditional games and offers up some unique ones:

51WXlhyiv0L._AC_US327_QL65_Above and Below.  “This is a mashup of town-building and storytelling where you and up to three friends compete to build the best village above and below ground.  The artwork is breathtaking and each games plays different.  Fun for the whole family.”  You can find it on Amazon as one of the deals of the day for $26.88 (regular $49.99).  It is also tagged as an “Amazon Choice.”

51MQ51fP5tL._AC_US327_QL65_Mr. Jack. “Mr. Jack is a cat and mouse style game where one player (playing the infamous Jack the Ripper), is attempting to escape untraced, while the other players (the investigators) try to reveal him.  The stakes are high!”  You can find it on Amazon starting around $40.  There is also a Mr. Jack: Pocket Edition for $20 and tagged as an “Amazon Choice.”

31jWS3orTmLT.I.M.E. “is a narrative game, a game of ‘decksploration.’  This is one of my all-time-favorite board games, but it’s difficult to explain.  You reveal the game as you slowly work through a deck of cards in the attempt to resolve a mystery.  Play it once and find yourself hooked! (Many expansions are available).”  It too can be found on Amazon for $53.99.

One more Payton recommendation, along with my own.  It is in the area of electronics and would be good for people who enjoy listening to audible Bibles, Christian music, podcasts, etc..

31mmncb0qol-_ac_us327_ql65_-e1543860471984.jpgPowerbeats3 Wireless Headphones.  “A little pricey, but if you’re looking for a good set of headphones, look no further.  You can sweat in them, run with them, garden with them and jam out on your podcasts.  All hands free of your phone.”  These can also be purchased on Amazon at a starting price of $79.99.

51VjLdXPp-L._AC_US327_QL65_ Bose Noise Canceling Headphones. This is on my wish list.  When you see the price tag you will understand why I haven’t purchased it with a couple of kids in college.  I also like headphones that go over the ear instead of in the ear.  Did I mention they are noise canceling?  Have you ever been on a flight with loud talkers or babies crying?  Ok, I know I’m old.  I have tried these in the Bose store and they are pretty amazing.  If you are familiar with the Bose sound, you know the quality in the listening experience.  It would also be nice when you just need some time of silence from the distractions around you.  It looks like you can get the series 1, wait for it, for $329.  The newer, series II, goes for $349.  Did I mention they cancel out noise?  These are not recommended for use during my sermons. If you see Santa, let him know I have been a good boy this year.

This wraps up the annual “Favorite Things” blog for this season.  No telling what they will come out with next year.

Cyber Monday

Today is Cyber Monday for our world, which means knocking out those Christmas lists by getting a few of the things at lower prices for the people.  It is also a time to get a bunch of cheap stuff for people you don’t love as much.  Not you, but other people.

Next Monday will be my annual “Favorite Things” list.  If you are new to the blog, these are ideas that could help in your spiritual walk.  This year Payton will be joining in with some of his “Favorite Things.”

It has been an exciting week.  We had our post-it note Thanksgiving activity Tuesday night.  Many of us enjoyed a great Thanksgiving with our family and friends.  There was a beautiful wedding with two of our young adults – Garrett and Brittany Dean.  And then an uplifting morning of worship.  It was great looking out and seeing so many of our college students, past members and your own family members with us.  You all sounded so good in our time of singing and praise.  And then we were blessed with a lesson by Payton.  As a preacher, I know the study he put into it as well as his ability to present God’s Word in a relevant way.  It was also nice to sit back and take in a sermon for myself.  Things are getting better and better all the time.

The holidays are in full swing at this point. We have several things coming up:

  • December 2nd: Christmas Party at the Heritage Center (5 pm)
  • December 16th: Mike O’Neil speaks on “Angels in the Redemption Story”
  • December 23rd: Lex and Payton speaks on the birth of Jesus
  • December 24th: Annual Christmas Eve Luncheon

Go to our new website, https://verobeach.church/, to stay up on our activities and ways to participate.  The “events” section is at the top right.  It will take you to the things that are coming up.

THE WRAP UP:

Payton did a great job speaking about one of the best known texts in Scripture. In class we talked about the importance of walking in the guidance of the Spirit rather than carrying out the desires of the flesh. The Spirit focuses on God while the Flesh focuses on self. The Spirit empowers us to live like Jesus and conquer our self-indulgent cravings.  Following legalistic laws has never been able to empower us. Paul’s use of fruit of the Spirit to describe these godly qualities is given to show it cannot be humanly manufactured. This fruit grows organically and by the life-giving energy of the Spirit.  This can only happen when we choose to following the leading of God by crucifying the passions and desires of our old life.  To choose to live/practice the works of the flesh is to establish a kingdom of our own.  Those who will inherit the kingdom of God are those who live for the kingdom by living by the Spirit.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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That’s right, it is Thanksgiving week.  One of my boys made it home safely and I expect another to be in tomorrow night.  Missy has all our Thanksgiving decorations out, along with our table set.  She heads out today to buy all the food for our traditional meal.  And we have the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving set to record in a couple of days.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

One of my favorite times is our annual Tuesday night Thanksgiving devo and activity at church.  We are doing a “Post-It Note” Thanksgiving.  We will meet in the auditorium at 7 pm for a time of prayer and devotional before we set out on our activity.  We will have all our facilities open for everyone to go through and write Post-It Notes of things you are thankful for in being a part of this church family.  Our facilities are simply objects of what we are grateful for the most.  For example, it may be a pew someone sits in that you are grateful for in your life.  Be creative.

IMG_1549[8114]Everyone knows how hard it is for me to use the “C” word before Thanksgiving, but this is worthy of early recognition.  Stephanie Chisholm led a group of ladies (pictured here) on Saturday to make 22 table arrangements for our annual Christmas party.  They were able to do it all in just over an hour!  Glenda Wild and Susan Wilson were not pictured, but were apart of the project.  Thanks ladies!  Everyone mark your calendar for December 2nd.

We have a special post-Thanksgiving treat this Sunday.  Payton will be speaking!  Not only is he doing a great job with the teens and young adults, but he is a great speaker.  I have appreciated his love for Scripture and making it come alive in our culture today.  It is going to be a great day.  This also takes a lot of stress off of me in a short work week so I can enjoy it with my family and get ready for a big wedding on Saturday.  I also get to lead singing, which I enjoy doing from time to time.

Speaking of our singing, you guys knocked out our new song Sunday morning – “Celebrate Jesus.”  David Brooker did a great job taking us through it for the first time.  He also lowered it half a step so us tenors could reach our notes – whew!  We are a singing church.  May we never lose that part of who we are in our worship to God.  We will take off December learning a new song and start back in January.  I have a few special ones in mind.

This Sunday we will continue in Galatians.  I will be teaching the context in Bible class and Payton will deal with the application in worship.  We will be covering Galatians 5:16-26.  What does it mean to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh.  Join us next week.

THE WRAP UP:

What an amazing God we serve!  Believers have entered the realm of grace, where we find forgiveness and a renewed relationship with our Creator.  In that realm we are made new creations who experience the new world order, that is coming, through fellowship with believers, of all races, status and gender, as we commune around one table.  The Holy Spirit is given to us until the final installment of God’s righteousness – the redemption of our bodies.  The Spirit cries out and testifies that we are God’s children, despite being in our world of sin.  The Spirit empowers us to begin living in the world to come that is dominated by an unconditional love for others.  Don’t let legalism knock you off the course you are running with Christ.  Don’t let it destroy the unity we share around the one table.  Don’t let it create rivalry and dissention.  Use your freedom in Christ as an opportunity to become a slave to others.  Here is where we discover the heavenly realm.

A Good Sunday

Yesterday day we saluted the veteran’s of this congregation.  War is apart of this fallen world.  It would be great to live in a time when there was no need for armies.  That day will come, until then many will join our nation’s military to help keep our families, communities and country safe.  We appreciate the sacrifices made in the past and present.

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Another part of our fallen world are tragedies.  Over the last month we have seen the devastation of Hurricane Michael in the panhandle.  These folks will not understand a “normal” life for a while.  Then last week our nation grieved over another mass shooting.  One of those victims was an honors student at Pepperdine University.  Over the weekend, and this morning, some of us have watched the devastation of wildfires in California.  It is difficult.  We continue to pray for all of these in the wake of these disasters.  Our world is going to tell us they no longer want our “thoughts and prayers”, but that should always be our first response.  This doesn’t mean this is the only thing that is done, and I’m sure this is often said out of frustration, but prayer is powerful.  Above is a picture of a Church of Christ building that was destroyed in the fires.

Last week my blog site erased everything I had written (that’s my story and I’m sticking with it).  So I thought I would at least share a couple of the pictures.  One is of David Brooker in his annual Homecoming march at the University of Florida.  He’s still got it.  The other is of our speaker and his wife from last week.  Their story is about a terrible tragedy in their life and their continued faith.  If you were not able to be here it is on our Facebook page.

While you are on the internet, go over to our new website at verobeach.church or click here.  Payton has done a great job.  We will try to keep all our activities up to date as well as an ideal place to send visitors or those in our community.

THE WRAP UP:

For those who have come to the Father in trusting faithfulness, been clothed with Christ in baptism and received life through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit – know we are God’s children.  Abraham’s wife, Sarah, is our mother, figuratively speaking, and we have been made free in Christ.  It is a gift, not an achievement.  We do not allow others to impose legalistic standards that would enslave us once again.  As children of the heavenly Jerusalem, we enjoy communion at one table – no matter one’s race, status or gender.  This freedom is shown in our communal life within the body of Christ, since Jesus came to live in us and through us.  Express that freedom this week.

My Kind of Weather

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The weather this weekend was perfect for doing anything outside.  Bella had a softball tournament in Titusville Saturday (which was 10 degrees cooler than Vero), and it was great.  Although I discovered you can still get a bad sunburn.  Sunday morning was refreshing and almost cold enough to wear a sweater vest… almost.  Inside our building was warm, not the literal temperature, but the reception we give to one another.  I know that is a bit cheesy, but I don’t care.  So many warm and inviting people make up this congregation and I am grateful.
34859-A-New-CreationIn the adult class, we looked further into the Book of Galatians.  The apostle explains how we were imprisoned by our sinfulness and the spiritual powers of this world.  But we have been set free in Christ.  We have been justified by our trusting faithfulness in the promises of God.  In baptism we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ.  A mysterious union takes place as we are being transformed into the likeness of Christ.  A union that binds us with all others in Christ.  A new creation emerges from the waters of baptism in the midst of an unredeemed world.  Ethnic distinctions are removed.  Social class has no power.  Gender status is gone.  Something spiritual has taken place that goes beyond the world around us.  We have been made children of Abraham, and through his Seed, sons and daughters of God.  We cry out, by the Spirit sent into our hearts, “Abba, Father.”  It confirms our adoption and status as God’s children.  This is why Paul could say, “I no longer live, but Christ who lives in me.”  What amazing grace and mercy!

Next Sunday we will continue through chapter 4.  The goal is verses 8-20.  Paul has some concerns for the Galatians, despite the wonderful blessings they received.  How might this text pertain to us?

32294178_1900077353338748_7803352975740502016_nSteven Hayes, and his wife Sherrie, will be with us next Sunday evening.  Steven is the head basketball coach at Mt. Dora Christian Academy.  He and Sherrie also attended Faulkner University with Missy and I.  But he is not coming to share his successes on a basketball court or the relationship he has with us.  Steven lost his child a few years ago to a terrible car accident.  The nature of that accident is even worse than on the surface, as you will discover.  This led to years of grief, as I’m sure it still does today.  But he and Sherrie have developed a faith that can move mountains.  Please make plans to be with us Sunday night.  Invite others to join you.  I promise it will be a blessing on your life.  We will meet in the Fellowship Hall at 5 pm.  We will also take this time for birthday celebrations and some cake following.

Sunday is our last Care Group Luncheon for the year.  This will be for families whose last names begin with A-B and F-J, also known as the Andersson/Wild groups.  You should receive an email this week.

37454-fall-back-daylight-savings-time-2014

Good news!  Sunday is the beginning of Daylight Savings Time.  Yes, we gain an hour.  So set your clocks Saturday night.

THE WRAP UP:

Galatians-328The more we dive deeper into a book of the Bible, the more it opens our hearts and minds to the ways of God.  It should change us in radical ways.  It also helps us to understand things that are happening in other letters of Paul.  The concept of the new creation was radical for that time, and still is today.  When the apostle speaks about the baptism of the Galatian Christians, he speaks of a freedom the world rejects and finds difficult to understand.  When we are made one with Christ, there is no longer “Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female.”  It is the radical vision of the new creation.  The “dividing wall of hostility has been removed” that once was a barrier at the Temple.  We have become a new creation in the midst of world that continues to resist God’s justice.  That said, we still live in an unredeemed world.  The church is God’s creation of a new community in the midst of the old, until the Day of the Lord – the Second Coming.  Therefore, we do not demand our freedoms in a fallen world.  This helps us to understand Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.  They too had learned about their new status in Christ, but were evidently demanding it in their relationships outside of the body and even with relationships within.  So Paul writes about the roles of husbands and wives, children and parents and even slaves and masters (Eph. 5-6).  Being in Christ transforms our relationships and how we treat others, but at the same time it does not free us from the roles of our current world.  But there is one place where this freedom is enjoyed and should be encouraged – when the community of Christ meets.  This is where the unredeemed world should be able to come and witness the new creation.  To see there are no distinctions of race, social status or gender.  A spiritual reality in the midst of a physical world.

Catch the Wave

Logo

Sunday morning Payton rolled out our new logo.  He wanted it to look like something that has been drawn by hand rather than photocopied.  As you can see, it is simple and easy to recognize.  The wave represents our beach location, but the lines represent us.  We have drawn the lines by our lives and we put the motion in the wave.  There is more to come, but for now it becomes a part of us.  Thanks Payton.

BusSpeaking of Payton, he and the teens had an interesting “mystery trip” Saturday.  Things were great until they loaded up after their second stop in Old Town in Kissimmee.  The church bus decided it was tired of lugging a bunch of teens around and stalled.  Payton then had to scramble to find another means of transportation for the rest of the trip and to get everyone home safely.  The only available rental vans were at the Orlando Airport.  After getting some new wheels and sending the old wheels off to the shop, they headed on their way.  Despite all of that, the young people had a great time.  Payton, on the other hand…  Seriously, I know it is frustrating when you make plans for a big trip only to have it “stall” at some point.  Payton will need to learn the catch phrase of my beloved Cubs, “There’s always next year.”  🙂

Sunday we continued through our series on Galatians.  In class, we broke down Paul’s appeal to these Christians.  It is passionate and filled with logic and correct understanding of Scripture.  There is no doubt Paul is speaking under the influence of the Holy Spirit.  There is so much we covered during class that opens our eyes to a proper understanding of God and draws us closer to the One who died on our behalf.  Unfortunately we do not have time to cover all the depths of these verses in worship.  But the sermon was dedicated to picking apart certain parts of Paul’s speech to help us see ourselves.  That is what this series is about: context, application and ultimately transformation.  Now is when transformation takes place.  There were several questions in the outline and on the Discovery Bible Study (back of the Arc Notebook pages) that challenge us.  Allow the Spirit to do its work in your life.  That comes by introspection and time with the Father.

THE WRAP UP:

As we look back into Galatians 3, understand what Paul is telling us about the Holy Spirit in our lives.  It isn’t something that lays dormmate in between a leather bound book.  It is living in us and through us.  When we focus on following a rule rather than living out powerful qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, we fill ourselves with something that cannot transform.  It isn’t fundamentally about what I do, as it is who I am.  We talk about transformation, and the place this happens is the Spirit within you.  Let the Spirit break free in your life.

Through everything, trust God.  Abraham demonstrated that trusting faithfulness in the Father.  It was His faith in God credited him righteousness, not trusting in a law to save.  But faith is not a mental exercise – it is life we live.  Because I trust God, I will do whatever I’m called to do.  We live by faith.  For that reason, we are redeemed, emancipated from the slavery of sin and death.  God’s grace is so amazing!