Did you know our pastors are in Tahiti this week--oh, not really, Brandon's in St. Louis with family, Adam has been shepherding the flock and prepping for camp messages and Ray has been working as usual, has family coming in tomorrow and is fighting something funky that has him under the weather and sounding like Steve Brown, so I thought I'd step in and fill you in on a few of the "goings on" at SRPC this week. School may be out for summer—but our campus is still very lively!
· Interns—Thirteen college interns arrived and have spent this week learning about Citrus County and getting to know each other as they prepare for a summer of ministry to our student population.
· Spirit Camp—we’ve gotten to watch all kinds of cuteness this week as SRCS' annual Spirit Camp has been taking place in our gymnasium—go team, go!
· Gym Stage transformation--With the explosive growth of the school, comes space issues. To solve some of those challenges, we are building 8 offices on 2 floors on the old stage in the gymnasium...and we could use your help. If you can swing a hammer, we could use you to help on the volunteer team framing the stage for the next 2 weeks. Please email or call Blair Commons and he can plug you into the schedule (746-6200). All skill levels needed!
· Celebrate Recovery BBQ is tonight from 6-8 p.m. at the student ministry building. Lawn games, volleyball, live music and CR testimonies. All are invited. RSVP for childcare.
· Athletic Complex--Progress is on schedule! Pictured below: softball fields being watered, scoreboards have arrived, main street trees are planted. Mark your calendar for the evening of August 14 at for the grand opening celebration at the field, everyone is invited!
· And Monday, Camp Seven Rivers kicks off with over 160 campers registered for the summer! Pray for our leaders and staff, and for the children that they will encounter the love of Jesus and have a blast (from the past!) doing all the fun specialties and activities they have planned.
· Here's something to pray about--Mike Francis, Pastor of Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Deland suffered a heart attack earlier this week while riding his bike and has not yet returned to consciousness. Will you pray that he would "wake up" and that God would restore him to health?
· This weekend in worship, Ray will preach on Matthew 25:14-30, we’ll receive 35 new folks into membership, we’ll introduce the college interns and we’ll celebrate it all with donuts after church on Sunday and warm pretzel bites on Saturday evening. Don’t miss gathering together for worship this weekend!
(We're really not staging a coup, you will hear from the pastors again!)
May 21, 2015
Here is the devotion I read this morning. It was so good I wanted to share it in toto. By the way, this devotional comes from a devotional I recommend, The Mockingbird Devotional — Good News for Today (and Every Day).
"And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal’ [or ‘master’] …And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and and mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. I will have mercy on [the one I called] not my people, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’ — (Hosea 2:16-23, ESV)"
At the time of the writing of Hosea, Israel had been worshiping other gods — a faultless rejection deserving God's own rejection: exile, death, damnation. That is why this passage is so shocking: rather than seething anger, God's response to rejection is this impractical, frustratingly persistent affection.
A resulting theme in this book is the issue of identity, of Gomer's shift from slave to spouse. The last lines of Dietrich Bondhoeffer’s poem, "Whom Am I? are relevant here: "Whom am I? / They mock me, these lonely questions of mine. / Whoever I am, Thou Knowest O God, I am Thine."
Though much of who we are will change, one thing that will not is the abiding acceptance of God – God will never let you go, even when you're sure he's unimpressed with you. Martin Luther gave us a helpful phrase to understand.... simul justus et peccator—"simultaneously justified and sinful." This is a realistic identity: according to your desires and actions, you are a sinner deserving judgment; however, because of God's mercy on the cross, you are covered. God's grace changes our identity problem.
If you’ve seen Fight Club, you'll remember Tyler Durden's powerful diatribe against the false identities we assume: "You're not how much money you've got in the bank. You're not your job. You're not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You're not you're problems. You're not your age. You are not your hopes. You're not your khakis."
In the spirit of Durden (and Luther), you are not your real or perceived set of identifiers. You are not your divorce. You’re not your parents’ divorce. You are not your addiction or disorder or STD. You aren't your pattern of dealing with relationships, your adultery, your anger. You are not your wallet or your wit.
Isaiah tells us that our righteousness is as filthy rags, but it is Jesus’ robe of righteousness draped over us that God sees. We need a God before whom we can put aside the disguise – trusting that when he sees us he won't turn away or smite us in anger. With this possible, for just a moment, the vicious habits of identity maintenance can stop, and we can step down onto the firm ground of acceptance. — Justin Holcomb
· Good News #1 – Today is the last day of school… tomorrow night is the SRCS graduation (at 7:00 PM). Do you know there are SRPC folks who come to graduation every year and haven't got children in our school! I love it when people get the covenant… we are his children and we all belong to each other!
· Good News #2 – SRPC’s own Karen Wright who teaches at Floral City Elementary and Allison Gamblin who teaches at Crystal River Primary were chosen by Governor Scott for the Governor Shine Award which is given to only a handful of educators for their stellar work. Both Karen and Allison were honored at a meeting of the Governor’s Cabinet!
· Good News #3 – SRPC teamed up with two missions we support I-Tec and Bob Julien’s Partners with Haiti to bring medical training to Haiti. Twenty students from local churches conducted clinics and shared the gospel with 200 people.
· Good News #4 – Here's the note I recently got from Jacqui Frazee about the way her small group leader sacrificially ministered to her. It's just a reminder that the work of the church – evangelism, mercy, education and missions is done by the members of the church and not by the staff of the church! "I had to have my septic drain field replaced and they broke a number of irrigation pipes in the process. I asked Bruce McMurray, my small group leader (and a nursery man), who he uses for repairs. He insisted on repairing it himself, after work and weekends until it was finished. He absolutely refused to let me even cover expenses (pvc etc.). And then I found out from his wife that it might be his least favorite job at the nursery. I am so blessed."
· Recommendations – I thoroughly enjoyed The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown, a celebration of the 1936 US Olympic rowing team's journey to the Berlin Olympic Games. Last night Diane and I went to the Ale House in Crystal River. It's been years since we’ve gone there due to (in my humble opinion) its grimy condition, the substandard food, the lackluster wait service and the rowdy clientele. With the urging of a friend, we tried it again last night. It’s still grimy and there was high drama as an intoxicated elderly couple seated next to us moved from gross public nuzzling to a loud, ugly fight in the span of a few minutes, but the food was good enough, the waiter was excellent and the vista as the sun set was the prettiest I’ve experienced in Crystal River in years! Not even the unsavory sideshow could dim the million dollar views across the water!
· Celebrate Recovery Anniversary BBQ—All of us are broken to one degree or another. Celebrate Recovery provides help to those struggling with damaging hurts (like abuse or abandonment), destructive habits (like addiction to alcohol, drugs or sex), and debilitating hang ups (like anger or depression). Real progress through the program can be made as we discover our personal, loving and forgiving Higher Power—Jesus Christ. To celebrate the 6th anniversary of Celebrate Recovery at Seven Rivers, we are hosting a Barbecue on Thursday, May 28th from 6 - 8 pm at the Student Ministry Building. Come to hear more about the ministry of CR at Seven Rivers and enjoy: BBQ chicken and ribs, lawn games, volleyball, live music and testimonies of God's grace.
· New Believer's Class is June 7–July 5. Have you recently become a Christian? Do you long to grow in your faith? In this five-week class you will learn how to read your Bible, pray, worship, serve, and give. Details and registration.
· This weekend in worship, we’ll say farewell to Dale and Debbie McCollough (Saturday night) as they move to Orlando to take advantage of the medical facilities there and their children’s help as Dale’s physical condition continues to erode. We’ll also pray for all our high school graduates! I’ll be preaching on Matthew 25:1-13! Is there anything better than being together in worship!
May 14, 2015
It will be good to be back in the saddle this weekend after being away to preach at a conference in Tampico, Mexico on “Grace-based Leadership” hosted by a burgeoning gospel-centered church planting movement. They had me preach seven times in one-and-a-half days which was tiring (for them), but was beautiful evidence of their hunger for the gospel.
After leaving Tampico, we caravanned with members of the Reynosa church, the Isaiah 55 team, and with our daughter, son-in-law and grandkids back to the border. The trip took almost 12 hours and we traversed an area of the US State Department that warns US citizens not to travel due to drug cartel violence. We got stopped 15 minutes into the trip by a traffic policeman who stopped the only van of the five which had a non-Mexico license plate and demanded a bribe. As is their practice, they refused the bribe and we had to make our way to a police station to pay a much higher fine before we could continue! The best part of the journey wasn’t being in Mexico for Cinco de Mayo—they don’t celebrate it there, it’s a U.S. creation…to sell a lot of guacamole and Corona no doubt! The best part of the journey was watching my naked grandson ca___ on the beach and baptizing him a few days later!
There’s a host of staff news to relate:
--Two cherished staff are leaving. Jillian Folkerts, whose labored in our front office is moving to Tallahassee next week and Cassidy Wahl, whose chased middle schoolers in student ministry is leaving at the end of the month for National Guard training and Grad school! We are thankful both Jillian and Cassidy served Jesus as part of our team!
--New staff are coming. We are excited that Heather Johnson is joining our staff support team in the front office. Tate Shelby, a recent graduate of Virginia Tech is coming next month to be a part of our student ministry team for the next 2+ years. Hannah Carroll, a recent graduate of ____________ is coming to bolster our Children’s Ministry team for this summer and hopefully beyond that!
--This next week, we will welcome the following college interns for the summer:
Emily Whitchurch – from Citrus County attends UNF
Cindy Steve – from Citrus County attends College of Central Florida
Taylor Wade – from Citrus County attends College of Central Florida
Kelly Abramowitch – from Citrus County attends SEU
Emily Faith – from the Philadelphia are and attends Grove City College
JoAnn Johnston – from Houston Texas went to Baylor University and now attends Covenant Theological Seminary
Katy Chapell – from St. Louis Missouri and attends Covenant College
Tanner Commons – from Citrus County
Ben Wright – from Citrus County and attends University of Florida
Caleb Bauman – from Orlando and attends UCF
Peter Johnson – From Orlando attends Seminole State
Tucker Woodward – From Gainesville and attends the University of Florida
Clint Rogers – From Middleburg, FL and attends UCF
--Many of you know that Teri Hill lost her dad to cancer this past week. His memorial service was today in Bradenton. Teri’s address is 808 N. Hollywood Circle, Crystal River 34429.
Here are some important upcoming events for your summer calendar!
May 16-17 is the last weekend to qualify for the early registration discount for Camp Seven Rivers.
June 7-July 5 is a special opportunity to grow in your faith if you are a new or young Christian. Brandon Lauranzon will be teaching a New Believers Class—Sunday mornings at 9am in the Student Ministry Building for five consecutive weeks
July 12-15 is our Summer Conference with Dr. Bob Flayhart of Oak Mountain PCA in Birmingham, Alabama.
August 14 is our Warrior Park Athletic Field Opening and Dedication. We’re planning a food truck rally, music, bounce houses for the kids and a great time to be together and kick off the new church and school year.
Want to watch a couple of encouraging videos? Revisit the Mother’s Day video from last weekend’s worship, but keep a box of tissues at the ready. Here’s an update from Eric Stites on the first worship service at New City Parramore Avenue in Orlando.
SRCS is closing the school year with a bang. This week began with a packed house at the annual celebration of student achievement in academics, arts, athletics and the awarding of Warrior/Swordsman awards to the student in each class who most exemplified Christ-like character. The week only amped up further with a raucous pep rally sendoff for the State tournament-bound playoff team whose tensely dramatic agonizing extra innings loss yesterday yielded this sweet picture on the front of today’s Chronicle! All the SRCS fun concludes next week with commencement exercises on Friday night, May 22 at 7:00 to which all church attenders are invited!
Want to be encouraged? Take a look at the SRCS enrollment growth over the last three years!
(52% growth since 2012)
GRAMMAR SCHOOL (K-6)
(75% growth since 2012)
UPPER SCHOOL (7-12)
(24% growth since 2012)
(50% growth since 2012)
This weekend, I’ll be preaching on Matthew 22:23-40. We’ll celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. During the Lord’s Supper, we’ll provide an opportunity for those with chronic or serious illness to be anointed with oil for healing. Why would we do this? God instructs us, “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” James 5:13-14. I’m looking forward to worshiping with you this weekend!
April 30, 2015
So much to be thankful for! The church staff took Tuesday to rejoice in all that God did in our midst over the last year. We thanked the Father for:
All this and school graduations, family missions trip, Camp Seven Rivers, Summer Conference, Middle and High School camps, High School missions trip to St. Louis, and August dedication of the new athletics complex still to come!!
More good news to celebrate at SRPC! Adam and Teri Hill welcomed a new son – Ingram Charles Hill onApril 15!
Chad and Alexandra Robison have announced that she is expecting their first child in November!
The Disaster/Community Response Team gathered this week to celebrate Don Payne and his service with DR team before he moves!
The SRCS girls softball team is not only having their best season ever (20 wins, 3 loses) but are on the brink of progressing further in the state playoffs than any SRCS team ever. This Friday at Bicentennial Park at 4:00 pm they will play for the Regional Championship and a trip to the State Championship Final Four! Go cheer the warrior women on!
An announcement from mission to the world our denominational missions agency: As you have no doubt seen on the news, a massive earthquake devastated Nepal on Saturday, April 25, 2015. More than 3,200 have lost their lives and thousands more are injured and homeless. Our national partners are experiencing the devastating effects of the earthquake firsthand. Eighteen people died while gathered for worship in one of our partner churches. Another partner church, though damaged itself, has become a temporarily shelter for 150 community members who've lost their homes. In Nepal we partner with national pastors who oversee churches, children’s homes, two schools, and a home for widows. These pastors are helping to grow the Church in Nepal. Now it is our turn to serve them. You can help by praying for our friends in Nepal and considering an online donation to help meet critical needs in the wake of this disaster.
Would you pray for me? Diane and I are flying today to Tampico, Mexico where I’ll be speaking at a Conference on Grace-Based Church Leadership. The conference is sponsored by a burgeoning movement of gospel-centered church plants in a place (Mexico) where the only church options have been Catholicism and a very strident fundamentalism. I’ll be speaking six times in 36 hours from Friday night through Sunday church (and you guys complain about sitting through one weekend sermon of “moderate” length!!) Would you pray that we could be an encouragement to our brothers and sisters in Mexico and that the beauty of Jesus would be palpable to us all. As an added highlight . . . I will get to baptize my grandson Knox on the trip. I can’t wait to anoint him with water, watching it trickle down his head and face, and claim over him and for him the promises of Jesus’ care and affection. I am really excited to not only be there as he is baptized but to be the baptizer!!
Two reminders about this weekend at SRPC. We only have one Sunday service at 10:00 a.m. beginning this Sunday through August 15/16 when we’ll go back to a three weekend service schedule. The Saturday service remains unchanged at 6:00 p.m. A memorial service for Anna Faith Witherow will be held at 3:00 p.m. in the sanctuary. Anna was born to Matt and Rachel Witherow on April 23, and was cuddled, kissed and prayed over for 53 minutes before she was taken to heaven. Those 53 minutes with her were a sweet gift from God in the midst of a very sorrowful day. You are welcome at the service and your continued prayer for the Witherow’s is deeply appreciated.
Our missionaries with Isaiah 55 ministry in Reynosa, Mexico, Kate and NoNo Beale were here in February for our Global Outreach month. After attending worship that weekend Kate sent this sweetly affirming note, “I came upon a quote from Eugene Peterson in his wonderful book “Living the Resurrection” and it struck me that this is what NoNo and I felt and talked about after our time at Seven Rivers. When we walked out of the last service I noticed NoNo was tearful and he looked at me and said if we could only be here and sit in this place every Sunday. What is it that makes us feel that way when we are in Seven Rivers church. Eugene talks about “the strong men and women who are urging us and guiding us to go against the polluted stream of religious professionalism that has unleashed this rampant, relentless onslaught of religious commercialism which commodifies the spiritual life and treats the church as free market for promoting and selling programs, techniques, and devices to the greater glory of God.” That is it. We come into your space and there is no pushing of programs or promoting agendas but in its place there is the Gospel and resurrection wonder. Our shared grandson, Barrett, will come over to the house and look up at me and say “I want to sit with you and watch a little bit of something” and it always moves me. He understands his position as the beloved and takes that posture just sitting with someone who loves him while enjoying the wonders of Tec the Tractor or Little Bear. I liken that to what the spirit of your church community is like….people who know or are learning their position in Christ and taking on the posture of the beloved filling the place with a spirit of real worship and restfulness and joy as they enjoy “being” (not doing) with Jesus and each other. There is a palpable presence of the Holy Spirit when you walk in and it was our pleasure once again to experience that with you all. Thank you for supporting us and doing life with us and letting us be the hands and feet of Jesus for you in Reynosa.”
So come this weekend and worship in joy and sit in restfulness as the beloved.
April 15, 2015
Pastor’s Class starts tonight—we have 49 folks signed up. We’d love to have you join us!
Thank you, SRPC, for…
· Painting the George Washington Carver Community Center last Saturday during Project Beautiful.
· Your faithful and joyous MORE giving. After two years of the campaign, over $2.3 million ($2,343,874) dollars has been given.
· Inviting your friends to church. This Easter we had 2,732 people attend worship!
· The Athletic Field project is progressing. Football lights are installed, the football field grass is planted, the field house and concessions buildings are roofed in and scoreboards have been chosen. We are on track to dedicate the fields on August 14!
· Eric and Kristen Stites’ church planting in Orlando had over 100 at their first service on Easter and had 65 at service #2! Thanks for praying!
· Men’s retreat is April 24 & 25 at the Life Enrichment Center in Fruitland Park. Sign up or learn more here.
· Are you struggling to articulate why homosexuality and gay marriage aren’t sanctioned by God or conducive to human flourishing? Perhaps these resources will help.
What does the Bible really teach about homosexuality?
Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert
Is God Anti-Gay?
· Earlier this year, we asked you to pray for Matt and Rachel Witherow and their 2 sons. Rachel is pregnant with their daughter but little Anna has developmental deficiencies that won’t allow her to live outside the womb. You have been wonderful as a church in your support of them. Rachel is due to give birth next week. Pray that God will be merciful and allow the Witherow’s a few sweet moments holding their daughter before she goes to heaven. Address: 5581 W Pine Circle, Crystal River, FL 34429.
· We will have three weekend services through the month of April (on May 3 we’ll return to one Sunday service at 10:00). We will however resume three services on August 16 and plan to have three weekend service for the following nine months. This weekend, we’ll be celebrating the work of God in our School ministry. Students from SRCS will greet, participate musically, Dana James will speak and there will even be a sneak preview of the Wizard of Oz production a few minutes before each service. I’ll be preaching on Matthew 20:17-28!