Thursday, April 2, 2015

Dear Fam,

I am wildly encouraged. Two weeks ago, I preached in Gainesville at Christ Community Church. Sprinkled among the worshipers were students that grew up at SRPC/SRCS: Lucas Ebert, Milena Kacer, Sophia Leon, Montana Wallace, Adam Gage and Rachel Dumas Bacheldor—who was out of town, worships there, too!  Last weekend, Diane and I went to Tallahassee to celebrate my grandson’s 3rd birthday and attended church with my son, Tony, and his family. At church were Carolyn Allen, Emily Pullen, Nate Whitchurch, Sarah Busk and, though out-of-town, Danielle Albury Roth and Chris Roth attend there, too! Seeing all these kids who grew up here following Jesus and loving His church was deeply fulfilling. Our school vision states well what we want the product of our ministry to be. “The vision of SRCS is to produce graduates who are passionate about God and His church and who are equipped to thrive in higher education, create healthy families, and bring the joy and peace of the gospel to a broken world.”

· Would you pray for another child who grew up at SRPC—my daughter Kristen. Kristen and Eric Stites have their first worship service in the Parramore Avenue neighborhood on Easter morning. Pray that people will come and be shocked by the grace of God! Here’s their website.

· What enables us to raise our kids in Jesus and send them out to the most broken places of the world with the good news of God’s healing power—a congregation that has made getting the faith to our children our priority. We asked you last month to buy chicken dinners to help send our high school students on a mission trip this summer to St. Louis. You guys bought over 560 pounds of chicken!!

· Pastor’s Class is where people in our church often “get it.” The next class starts April 15 at 6:30 pm in the Florida Room. We meet for 5 consecutive Wednesdays for an hour and a half each night. Childcare is available. Sign up here, or just walk in!

· Need a new toy? Somebody donated a really nice golf cart to SRPC and we are selling it! See it here.

· Do you love literature? I just finished an outstanding book entitled, “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr. It was named one of the top ten books of the year by the NYT Book Review. It’s a treat!

· Hats off to Chad Robison, the choir, Adam Hill’s tech staff, the ticket sellers/takers/ushers, Sue Winship, the parking crew, et al. for pulling off the magnificent American Folk and Hymn Festival. It was a feast—Aaron Copeland, Deep River, Finlandia, Oh When the Saints…the hits just didn’t stop. It was a packed house and a veritable musical feast. So proud of our team for bringing this gift to our culturally starved community!

Pray with me for the power of the risen Christ to open the hearts and minds of those who come to Easter worship. Pray for the preacher, too—he gets scared on big occasions! I love you, SRPC!


March 5, 2015

Dear Fam,

As we sprint into the month of March and a return to Daylight Savings Time (hallelujah) we find SRPC to be a busy and happening place! Last week, we finished Global Outreach month with a visit from Kate and NoNo Beale of Isaiah 55 Deaf Ministry, we had the SRCS Senior Class on a mission trip to build houses for Habitat in Tuscaloosa, we had over 30 middle-school students and adults on a retreat, and we had 50 adults and children join our family as new members. So what’s next on the calendar?

- March 21, fourteen from SRPC will travel to Pasadena, CA to help an old friend, Chuck Ryor, remodel their new church building at Prism Church of Pasadena.
- March 27, brings us the Americana Folk and Hymn Festival – you won’t want to miss it. This concert will celebrate great hymns and folk songs from our American heritage such as Amazing Grace, Shenandoah, Morning Has Broken, and When the Saints Go Marching In, just to name a few.  We will also feature some of America's greatest composers including leonard Bernstein's West Side Story and Aaron Copland's Tender Land Suite.  Tickets are available online, at the church office or at the Guest Services desk during weekend worship.
- April 2, Maundy Thursday service at 6:30pm in the Sanctuary
- April 4, at 11:00am, the Children's Ministry will host an Easter Egg Hunt for our toddlers through 5th graders. Make sure to arrive on time because the eggs go fast! There will be a picnic and games afterwards for your kids to enjoy, including a bounce house!
- April 4/5, Easter Worship - Saturday at 6:00pm, Sunday at 9:00am and 10:50am. Now is a great time to start thinking about who you would like to invite.
- June 1, Camp Seven Rivers begins – it's one of the best things we do at SRPC.  The theme this year is Blast from the Past.  Each week, campers will get to experience all the coolest fads from each decade beginning with the Roaring 20's on June 1 and finishing out the summer with the Rockin' 80's on July 17. It's sure to be a blast!

· Pray for one another! Jenna Campbell continues to face surgeries in her battle with cancer. Aimee Kelso goes next week for important treatment and evaluation of her cancer, Ken Wackes and Dale McCollough continue to deal with neuro-muscular degenerative diseases and Matt and Rachel Witherow approach the birth of their little girl (in late April) knowing she will only live a few minutes. We need each other, nobody can make it alone – let’s continue to bear one another’s burdens.

· JoAnn Gardner’s eighth-grade English class at Seven Rivers Christian School recently read “A Long Walk to Water.” The story chronicles a young girl walking each day for eight hours to bring water back to her home. The eighth-grade class, inspired by this story, has established the Warrior Water Fund in partnership with Water for South Sudan to raise money to dig wells and bring clean water to Africa. Their goal is to raise $25,000 by May 2016 and have already exceeded their first goal of $1000 by raising $1500 thus far!  Rubber wristbands are for sale at the school office for $2 each to support the cause. Donations are also welcome. JoAnn Gardner can give you more information.

· This week we give thanks for Jeff Brake.  Jeff has been leading Celebrate Recovery for the last five years.  Jeff has tirelessly given his talents, energy and service to this ministry.  Jeff has been a bulldog in his determination to fight for those in our church and community who struggle with hurts, habits and hang ups.  Thank you Jeff! Please welcome and pray for Paul Manuel who will be taking the helm of CR in April.

· This Friday morning at 10:45 in the Sanctuary, many of us at SRPC will gather to honor God for the glorious life of Betty Santana. Immediately following the service, those who wish can proceed to her burial at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell. Betty died Sunday in her 89th year of life and after 72 years of marriage to her beloved Ted. When her casket arrives at campus on Friday morning at 8:45 – many of our students will line the sidewalk as it processes by. This is in recognition that in many ways Betty is the mother of SRPC. Nobody loved SRPC more than Betty and nobody was more loved by the SRPC family than Betty. Proverbs 31 says of the virtuous woman, “. . .her children rise up and call her blessed.” Friday morning many of us will gather to do just that!

· This weekend in worship, I’ll be preaching on Matthew 18:1-14. Our worship will include the feast of the Lord’s Supper!  Be sure to reset your clocks before Sunday morning!


February 12, 2015

Dear Fam,

I’m thanking God today for our remarkable children’s ministry team and the fact that it's growing only stronger. This week, we added Kaylee Nelson to our staff to assist Teri Hill and to direct Camp Seven Rivers! Adam Jones recently emailed me this note regarding our children’s program. “I met with a young couple yesterday that has been coming to our church for about two years.  They have come because of children's ministry.  They have been blown away by the workers telling them things their children have done in children's ministry… “Your son prayed today…. He told God thank for you for the trees, the sky, the bugs, my sister…”  They have been amazed that you guys do more than ‘childcare’ and show them a movie.  The mom could not believe that she came for a leadership meeting and her child did a craft about Noah… She was so impressed that her kids are ‘getting taught’ and getting loved in children's ministry… She simply told me that, in her church experience, this is not the norm.”

· Lots of good stuff about to happen at SRPC:

Ash Wednesday service is on February 18 at 6:30. What’s Ash Wednesday?  Ash Wednesday begins the season of the Church Year known as Lent, which begins forty days prior to Easter and is characterized by a focus on penitence, fasting, prayer and works of charity.  This first day of Lent reminds Christians of the works of Jesus in Matthew 16:24 – “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.”  The way to Easter is the way of the cross. As the first step in this Lenten journey the Ash Wednesday service invites us to acknowledge our mortality, our sinfulness and our dependence upon the grace of God.  A unique feature of this service is the marking of the forehead with ashes in the sign of the cross.  Since the 10th century this practice has been used to symbolize the frailty of our human existence and our deep need for the saving work of Jesus.

Digging Deeper is a required class for anyone in a leadership role at Seven Rivers, but everyone is welcome to take this class. In this eight-week class, taught by Adam Jones, you will study the biblical truths held by our church and denomination (Presbyterian Church in America). Digging Deeper is offered once a year. Our next eight-week Digging Deeper class begins Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 6:30 pm in the Choir Room. Register at church this weekend or here.

SRCS Open House: Come see why families choose Seven Rivers Christian School at one of the upcoming Open House events: Feb 17 at 6:30 pm, Feb 21 at at 11:00 a.m. If you miss it this month, there will be another one on May 5!

· Thanks for praying for Adam Jones and me as we spoke to pastors last week in Hendersonville, NC. Adam was phenomenal—I was so glad the folks there got to hear the wisdom those of us at SRPC get all the time from him! Let me also add that if you’re ever in the area, go to the Carl Sandburg house and to the Flat Rock Village Bakery—their wood-fired pizza and apple turnover are the best things I’ve put in my mouth in the last 70 years!  Here's a disturbing picture from the my defense, it was very cold there!

· Two events of note:
--Filter Youth Development Ministry Open House is February 21 from noon to 2pm at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Inverness. This is a ministry to families in our county who need mentorship and new skills to help overcome hardships that come arise from broken relationships and troubling behavior. You could win a new Honda Ruckus if you go!
--A memorial service for Phil Glavey will be held this Saturday at Nature Coast Church at 11:00 a.m. Phil was a delightful man and became an integral part of SRPC in our earliest days. His wife, Sandy was our first Children’s Ministry Director. I loved the Glaveys!

· Here are some recommendations: Movies:  Be sure to see American Sniper, Selma and Taking Chance. Taking Chance was an HBO film, may have never been in the theaters, and thank goodness it’s short because I choked back tears the whole time. You will love this. Don’t see Unbroken—read the book, it’s an amazing story. I’d also recommend John Grisham’s, Gray Mountain and Hampton Sides book on artic exploration called, “In the Kingdom of Ice.” Here’s another movie not to see Fifty Shades of Grey. Here’s a video that will prompt you to thank God for school teachers!

· The Global Outreach month continues this weekend with visits from RUF campus pastors from UF (Tim Carper) and UCF (Lee Wright). By the way, February 21-22, Steve Saint will be preaching if God enables it—pray for him. This weekend, I’ll be preaching on Matthew 16:21-28! Can’t wait to be with you in worship.




January 8, 2015

Dear Family,

Welcome to 2015! This weekend we kickoff a new year of experiencing God’s faithfulness together as a church family. This year will include some totally unscripted, tear-­­inducing, joy-filled moments and some moments of deep sobriety and pain over the brokenness of our lives and our world. This year will include lots of praying and patiently (or impatiently) waiting on God to act in ways that will stretch our faith, and also the experience of God busting in and radically intervening in the most sudden, glorious, and unanticipated fashion. 2015 is going to be a wild ride—and we get to do it together!

· This weekend we kickoff the new year with three weekend services (Saturday night at 6:00, and Sunday morning at 9:00 & 10:50). There will be “snacky stuff” after the Saturday service and donuts between the two Sunday services. There will also be the opportunity to hook up with a small group if you’re not yet in one!

· Four great learning opportunities will launch next week:
--Pastor’s Class--is for those looking for more information about Seven Rivers Church, seeking to know Christ, or interested in church membership. See more here—we begin this Wednesday night at 6:30 and childcare is available.
--End Times Class--Brandon Lauranzon will teach this five-week class beginning this Wednesday at 6.30 pm in the sanctuary.
--Unhitching From The Crazy Train--Our women’s retreat is next weekend. See here for more details.
--Jr. Pastor’s Class--A six-week class designed to press the foundation of the gospel into hearts of middle schoolers. Students who complete the requirements are eligible for church membership. Class is every Sunday morning 9:00-10:30 starting January 18. Inquire with the student ministry staff or email Jillian Folkerts to register.

· SRPC in the Villages? Welcome to Golf Cart Presbyterian Church! The SRPC session has approved launching a Bible study in The Villages to gauge the interest in the beginning of a new church. The Bible study begins this Sunday night at the Sonrise Café at 6:30 p.m. (3469 Wedgewood Lane, The Villages 32162). Do you have friends in The Villages you could encourage to attend? Will you pray now and regularly for this good work?

· Fun, fun, fun to see what God calls kids to do who grew up at SRPC/SRCS. Just before Christmas break, Wes Tubman who graduated in 2003 matriculated at the Air Force Academy and is now a United States Air Force pilot – buzzed the campus in his F16! Carolyn Allen, who graduated in 2009 “studied” at FSU, just moved to Tallahassee to serve on the governor’s staff as Governor Rick Scott’s photographer!

· Here’s two good articles. The first answers questions you may have been asking – why is SRCS booming, why are parents zealous to have their children educated here and teachers increasingly desirous of laboring here. The article is entitled, What Makes An Excellent Education, was written by Dana James and just appeared in the January 2015 edition of Innovation Citrus.  Article number two is entitled, Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God, was written by Eric Metaxas and appeared in The Wall Street Journal on Christmas Morning. Read it here.

· This weekend in worship we’ll continue our sermon series on Love Thy Neighbor at all three weekend services. Don’t miss the fun!




December 18, 2014

Dear Fam,

I hope you’ve enjoyed Advent worship as much as I have. The music in the narthex before services, the preschoolers dropping some serious cute on us two weekends ago, the choir and little girls singing last week and the sweet sounds of Tom Leonard's saxaphone echoing off the walls as we gather for worship! As good as it’s been, the best is yet to come . . . Christmas at Seven Rivers this Saturday night (thus no Saturday evening worship) and Christmas Eve worship at 3:00p.m., 5:00p.m., and 7:00p.m.

· Thank you, thank you, thank you for your generous MORE giving. The athletic complex is progressing toward an August 2015 debut! Your dollars are funding a mission to capture children’s hearts and minds for Jesus. Our school is projecting growth as high as 500 children next year. Here’s a peek at the progress on the athletic fields!

· In last weekend’s sermon (The Branch), I made mention of a video of married couples finding their marriages strengthened devoting themselves to being agents of restoration in our world. It’s worth watching.

· Here’s the latest letter from our daughter and son-in-law’s mission to plant a church in the Parramore Avenue neighborhood of Orlando.

· If you’re a husband and still haven’t found the perfect gift for your bride, then you better get going but be very careful!!

· Going to be with family for Christmas? Here’s comfort – a sweet prayer for those of us saddened by loved ones with memory loss. Here’s encouragement – God loves to redeem the most unlikely candidates. Read this testimony of a Frenchman who said, “I drove to an evangelical congregation in Paris, visiting it as I would a zoo: to see exotic animals that I had read about but had never seen in real life.”

· This Sunday morning I’m preaching on Isaiah 35:1-10. On January 3/4 – we’ll start a new year together with a sermon series entitled, Love Thy Neighbor. When I count my blessings this Christmas - naturally my wife and family are the nearest and dearest to my heart. I am stunned, too at God’s kindness to admit me into His family and to allow me to be a part of the sweet, screwed-up, mess of a family that he’s knit together at Seven Rivers. We belong to Him and we belong to each other . . . can you believe it?  Merry Christmas dear ones!



 December 5, 2014

 Dear Family,

Tis the season at SRPC!

     ¯The sanctuary is beautifully decorated and you’ll be greeted with Christmas music in the narthex before each service.

     ¯ Advent preaching begins this weekend with a series entitled, “Joy to the World.” Message number one is from Isaiah 9:1-7.

     ¯ Camp Christmas is an outreach program to our preschool families, many of whom do not attend SRPC. After a day of camp on this Saturday (Dec. 6) they’ll attend church and the preschoolers will sing during Sunday worship and the families and kids will be treated to lunch!

     ¯ The MOPS annual Christmas Party is this Tuesday, December 9 at 7:00 pm in the Florida Room. Childcare is provided by reservation only. Send RSVP for childcare to Jillian Folkerts.

     ¯ Christmas at Seven Rivers is Saturday, December 20 at 7:00 pm. (Worship on Sunday only that weekend.) This very special holiday evening will include some of the most beloved Christmas melodies and compositions by classical masters Samuel Barber, Sergei Prokofiev, and Charles Gounod. Performing will be the Seven Rivers Chorale and the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra with a special appearance by Amy Owens a bright, vibrant soprano. She is an Apprentice at Santa Fe Opera and recently finished a two-year residency with Utah Opera. This concert sold out early last year, so don’t delay in purchasing your tickets. Tickets can be purchased here or at the Guest Service Desk this weekend.

     ¯ Christmas Eve worship will be bright and beautiful at 3:00, 5:00 and 7:00 pm on December 24!

· As a staff, we were reflecting this week on how surprisingly powerful Prayer Week was. Here’s one person’s experience during this sweet week.

· Want to do something more meaningful with Christmas money than buy more stuff? Consider an experience that may alter the trajectory of your life or family—invest in a mission trip. Here’s the roster of opportunities in 2015.

· Here’s a couple great quotes. The first is from Tim Keller’s book, Center Church on the signs of renewal. The second is from David Brooks recent New York Times column entitled, "The Ambition Explosion." 

· If you want to hear good preaching – can I recommend a humble, not widely known preacher who labors in an obscure, out-of-the-way burg along the Florida gulf coast. His name is Adam Jones and he is a sermon master craftsman. Last weekend’s sermon on family and parenting entitled “The House Rules” was poignant and powerful. If you missed it—listen to it, if you were there then listen again! I almost came out of my seat when Adam said, “Prioritizing children at SRPC—these are the house rules!”

· Looking for a good devotional to give someone this Christmas— let me suggest Saving Grace daily devotional by Jack Miller.

I’m looking forward to walking through Advent together with you!



November 20, 2014

Dear Family,

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Psalm 107:1
I’m thankful for prayer week and prayer “weak”
I’m thankful for the fatherly love of God
I’m thankful for a responsible congregation – we ask them to pray and they do in greater numbers than we ever anticipated
Sue Winship and her coffee bar ministry to many on weekends
Supportive spouses of our hardworking staff members
Pumpkin pancakes
Free shipping!
Tampa, I love Tampa – the Rays/Bucs/Lightening/airport, Cuban food, beaches, Bayshore Blvd, Hyde Park, Westtown Church, The Oxford Exchange
My grandsons (Reid, Barrett, Sam, Knox, Beau and Mason - due on 11/30) and for your grandchildren
Southwest Airlines
The dream of athletic fields at SRCS coming to reality
Tim Keller
A church that doesn’t let elections (local or national) divide us
Winston Churchill
That Jesus knows my name
Our Deacons (Jamey Gage, Jeff Jekabsons, Mark Stone, Tom Loughridge, Bob Rupp, John Weed, Warren Conner, Brian Czajkowski, Joseph Lounders, Ron LaTorraca, Isaac Torres, David Wallace, John Welter)
Jeff Brake and his leadership in Celebrate Recovery
A massacre avoided at FSU
Our gorgeous new preschool building and playground
Foster parents at SRPC
Dale McCollough and his wife serving him valiantly
My daughter-in-law (Ashley) and my sons-in-law (Bibb & Eric)
The music at SRPC
Charles Krauthammer
Camp Seven Rivers
Our Divorce Recovery ministry
Christmas Eve Worship
Jenna Campbell’s slow, steady recovery
Public school educators sacrificially ministering to broken children and families in our community
Frances Spalti
College Football
Homemade granola
Thanksgiving dinner with family
Medgar Evers
Plunging gas prices
The way Karen Ott cared for her husband as he battled cancer
Bill Simmons
Johnathan & Maggie Iverson and their five girls building Christ's church in Asia
Jacqui Frazee looking out for widows for over 20 years at SRPC
Greek Gods Yogurt
The robust health of SRCS
Getting to watch people at SRPC stream forward for communion
The freedom the gospel produces to be honest about our brokenness and weaknesses
Sautéed spinach
The Holy Spirit who constantly reminds me that I’m God’s beloved child
I get to pastor and learn from such a remarkable church family
Jack Reacher
The Citrus County Chronicle
Florida sunsets
I don’t live in Buffalo, NY
SRPC members who’ve given generously to scholarship children at SRCS
Ken Burns
My Dad & Mom – the most selflessly generous people I’ve ever met
The Jingle Bell 5K in Inverness
Navy Seals and their valiant comrades who put themselves between us and evil
The Bible and all who died so we could have it
New Christians
Will Farrell
The athletic genes of the Gage Family
The Puritan prayers of the Valley of Vision
I get to baptize the little ones who to Him belong
My wife. 35 years married and she is still the one!
Hope your heart is filled with wonder over how good God is!




November 14, 2014

Dear Fam,

Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heavens.
Praise him for his acts of power;
praise him for his surpassing greatness.
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
praise him with the harp and lyre,
praise him with timbrel and dancing,
praise him with the strings and pipe,
praise him with the clash of cymbals,
praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.  --Psalm 150

· "Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” Nov. 17-23 SRPC intends to practice doing just this during Prayer Week. Before the hectic rush of the holiday season—we are calling our church and small groups to stop, be still, be quiet, listen, and pray. Our sanctuary will be open Monday-Friday from 8:00 – 9:30 am, and again in the evening from 6:30 – 8:00 pm. It will be quiet, there will be music playing softly, you can sit and read your Bible, there will be guides and stations to lead you in how to pray, as well as elders and deacons if you’d like someone to pray for you. This would be a great week to pray with your children, pray with your spouse, or come as a small group to pray at SRPC. Pray at the office, pray with your team, pray on the way to work, pray before bed. The Bible says to pray at all times but we are weak at praying…let’s practice next week. Let’s meet our God in prayer.

· Here’s something to pray about. We want to start a church in The Villages. The first exploratory meeting will be a dinner this Sunday night at 6:00 pm at the SonRise Café (3469 Wedgewood Lane, The Villages FL 32161). We have been advertising in The Villages inviting people to come and be a part of a new church plant. Our plan is for Adam and Brandon to lead a Bible study there on Sunday nights beginning in January in an attempt to build the group and move toward founding a new church.

· This Sunday night at 6:00 pm, Nature Coast Community Church (a church plant of SRPC) is dedicating their first building in Homosassa (5113 S Suncoast Blvd, Homosassa FL 34446). All are invited to come!

· Would you pray for Joyce Trygar—yesterday she had surgery for a kidney transplant.  Pray that her body will accept the new organ.

· Baptisms were really sweet this weekend at SRPC. Here’s an article to help you grasp the blessing of baptism.

· I have really, really good news. The Rusty Duck is open again for lunch (Monday-Friday)! The Duck is a Citrus County treasure!

· As Thanksgiving approaches, I give you reason to consider how good you actually have it. A preacher in Mt. Dora set the record (according to Guinness—the book, not the beer) for the longest speech/sermon ever last weekend—he preached for 53 hours and 18 minutes without stopping. Clearly at SRPC our pastors are models of brevity!

· Our Christmas Concert is Saturday, December 20 at 7:00 pm (there will be no Saturday evening service that weekend) The Seven Rivers Chorale and Central Florida Philharmonic Orchestra will present Christmas At Seven Rivers. This very special holiday evening will include some of the most beloved Christmas melodies as well as some undiscovered compositions. Tickets ($20 for adults, $5 for children 12 and under) will be available to purchase at the Guest Service Desk this weekend and are available online now!

· This weekend, we’ll kick off Prayer Week with a sermon on prayer and a sweet time around the Lord’s Table. I can’t wait to be together again!



 “Maintenance prayer meetings are short, mechanical, and focused on physical needs inside the church. In contrast, the three basic traits of frontline prayers are these: a request for grace to confess sins and to humble ourselves; a compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church and the reaching of the lost; and a yearning to know God, to see his face, to glimpse his glory.” –Tim Keller

October 30, 2014

Dear Fam,

The MORE campaign marches on. Last weekend’s video included a beautiful flyover of the developing athletic complex. Our MORE halftime included 56 families making new commitments joining the 517 families who originally jumped in! Our God is able to do more than we ever dreamed or imagined.

· Trunk or Treat was a churchyard smash! Those of you who decorated trunks did a stunningly good job. Dana James dressed as the Cat in the Hat was my personal favorite.

· My wife is in Orlando this week helping our daughter and son-in-law, and grandson move…In her absence—self-discipline has waned. The last two nights I ate a whole box of Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Spice Granola while watching Ken Burns’ film on Teddy, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. The film on the Roosevelts is can’t miss and the granola is…all gone!

· Here’s an excerpt of an article entitled, When Salt Blames the Rot, by Denis Haack on just who is to blame for cultural decline.

We are rapidly reaching the point in Western consumer societies where people confuse freedom with choice, as they are dazzled daily by an ever-expanding array of external choices in consumer goods and lifestyle options. But the pursuit of freedom has led to a surfeit of choices and a scarcity of meaning and value—a point at which choice itself, rather than the content of any choice, has become the heart of freedom. The result is that modern people value choice rather than good choice. [Os Guiness]
John R.W. Stott addressed the issue in Authentic Christianity (1995): When men reject what they know of God, God gives them up to their own distorted notions and perverted passions, until society stinks in the nostrils of God and of all good people.

Now Christians are set in secular society by God to hinder this process. God intends us to penetrate the world. Christian salt has no business to remain snugly in elegant little ecclesiastical salt cellars; our place is to be rubbed into the secular community, as salt is rubbed into meat, to stop it going bad. And when society does go bad, we Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves? One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad. It cannot do anything else.

The real question to ask is: where is the salt?

If Stott is correct, and I believe he is, then we Christians tend to assign blame incorrectly for the social decay we see around us. The problem is not them, but us.

Of course, even if we adopt Stott’s perspective, we must be careful how we express it. The point is not to insist that Christians would solve the problem if they were involved, because we can’t know that. Nor is the point to insist that, if Christians had been involved in the first place, this social difficulty would not have arisen, because we can’t know that either. Bothe statements reek of arrogance.

The point, instead, is to agree that real problems exist in society that keep people from truly flourishing, and that it is at those points of tension, the church should be engaged—but we usually aren’t , and that is to our shame.


· Prayer Week is an opportunity to reteach our hearts and minds that prayer really is "doing something" about the issues that face our community, our country, and our world. In fact, prayer might be the best thing we could ever do, because only God has the ultimate power to change anything. Prayer Week will offer you the chance to slow down, be quiet, and bring your petitions before the Lord. Monday through Friday, November 17-21, the Sanctuary will be open from 8-9:30am and 6:30-8pm. The space will be transformed into a prayer chapel, and a staff person will be on hand with info to guide you in how to pray and what to pray for. You can also use the time to just sit, reflect on Scripture, and be still. Free childcare will be provided on Thursday morning and Friday evening.
· This weekend in worship, we’ll welcome new members into the SRPC family. I’ll be preaching on Ephesians 4:25-5:7. This Saturday night/Sunday morning you also need to change your clock back one hour! Looking forward to being together this weekend!

 October 23, 2014

 Dear Fam,

This is an action-packed weekend at SRPC. It’s Halftime of the MORE campaign, so we are celebrating what’s been accomplished thus far (see last weekend’s MORE video) and setting our sights on finishing well. This week in worship will include:
·  Bagpipes in recognition of Reformation Day
·  Preaching on Ephesians 4:17-24
·  A MORE video featuring the second half of our campaign—the construction of our athletic complex
·  Filling out cards to make a MORE commitment, or to recommit, to the pledges already made.
·  Ice cream after Saturday worship and donuts after the Sunday services!

Though the MORE campaign only allocated $800,000 toward starting some athletic fields, the session felt that this was a time to “put our foot on the gas” and build as much of the athletic complex as we possibly could. They increased the allocation to $1.6 million. This project includes a fully-lighted football field with bleachers and press box, baseball and softball fields with dugouts and batting cages, a field house with locker rooms, coaches’ offices and weight training facilities, a concession stand with restrooms and ample parking. Future plans exist to add a track, tennis courts, swimming pool, a children’s playground and to light all the fields. This gargantuan project is already underway and completion is anticipated for use by the beginning of the 2015/16 school year.

Why is the MORE campaign and building strong ministries to children and families so vital? Because—the secular storm that’s buffeting our culture will blow every house down, but the ones built on the rock of the word of God. Laying Christ in in the bottom as the ballast of every young life is our mission and it will bear fruit for ages to come. So—take the commitment card this weekend and give yourself away for the one who gave up himself for you!

·  This weekend we are also hosting a party—Trunk or Treat is Sunday afternoon from 3:00 – 5:00. We need 7 more trunks and about 20 more volunteers to really do it right. If you can help, contact Teri Hill (

·  Beloved member of SRPC, Tim Ott’s body succumbed to cancer last night. His memorial service will be Saturday morning at 11am at SRPC.  “Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116.15).



P.S.  Call Teri Hill and volunteer to help with Trunk or Treat.  She's pregnant and doesn't need additional stress, so volunteer!!

October 2, 2014

 Dear Family,
· SRPC is a family that finds meaning in the truth, beauty, community, and mission of God. We are builders and baby boomers, gen-xers and millennials, conservatives and progressives, educators and athletes, struggling doubters and committed believers, engineers and artists, introverts and extroverts, healers and addicts, CEO’s and homemakers, affluent and bankrupt, single and married, happy and hurting, lonely and connected, stressed-out and carefree, Christian and public schoolers, PhD’s and people with special needs, experts and students, saints and sinners. We are a glorious part of God’s modern family.
· One of the highlights of the week (or month, or past year) was this picture of SRPC/SRCS graduates now in college, attending the RUF campus ministry retreat together!

· With the fall Pastor’s Class completed and Financial Peace University successfully concluding—we have a new Wednesday night adult education class beginning October 15. Adam Jones will open up the Old Testament and study the book of Ruth. If you enjoy mystery, hidden meanings, veiled and revealed wonders, and enjoy being captured by God’s love in the midst of suffering then you will be riveted by the book of Ruth.
· Student Ministry at SRPC is vital to our mission. Here’s an update from Marty Cates, our Student Pastor—particularly for parents.
· Trunk or Treat – Kids of all ages, and their parents, are invited to join us on the Seven Rivers’ athletic field for an afternoon of Trunk or Treating, food, fun and games: including a hay ride! October 26 from 3:00-5:00 pm.
· Just a reminder, on days when school is in session, our campus is a one-way campus.  Between the hours of 7:30 am and 4:00 pm, please enter on Maylen Avenue, and exit at Highway 44.
· Encouraging report on Phil Gelston’s Church planting in Germany. Phil is a son of SRPC and one of our missionaries!
· Celebrate Recovery has changed its meeting night--now on Thursdays beginning at 6pm!
· The SRPC staff was sobered by the news that our own Aimee Kelso has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Aimee has begun treatment to combat the disease.  Would you pray for Aimee and her sweet family?
· This weekend I’m preaching on Ephesians 3:1-13. We will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper together and giving the opportunity for people to be prayed for and anointed for healing during the service. God’s word invited 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. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  So come to weekend worship with anticipation, who knows what God will choose to do in our midst.

September 18, 2014

 Dear SRPC Family,

Here are a few highlights from our Session Meeting last week.

· Approved sending $20,000 to Nature Coast Community Church (a daughter church of SRPC) to aid in the completion of their new building.

· 2013/2014 income is $33,052 over budgeted income, and year-to-date spending is $122,740 under our actual income.

· We increased monthly support of four missionaries—Eric & Sara Beth Noll (Bangladesh), Johnathan & Maggie Iverson (Asia), Eric & Nora Gelston (Germany) and I-Tec. We added Dr. Trina Wisecup (I-Tec) who is an SRPC member as a part of our missionary support. We increased our giving to support church planting in Florida to $70,000 per year. We also added the Parramore church planting effort of Eric & Kristen Stites to our support roster (see newsletter).

· SRCS reports an increase in enrollment from 391 in 2013/2014 school year to 454this year. This increase of 63 students included 16 new preschoolers, 27 new in the grammar school, and 20 added to the upper school (grades 7-12).

· Often in our elder meetings we just sit amazed at God’s continued providence for the building of His Church! Our Father has been abundantly kind to SRPC!

· Here are three articles for you to enjoy:

I Didn't Marry My Best Friend Instead I married my husband, with all my best friends beside me. It was the happiest day of my life. This is a great article on the difference between a spouse and a (best) friend. These are different offices and marriage has enough pressure without demanding or pretending that your husband/wife necessarily fill both.

The Op-Ed (Oprah Edited). A delightful editing of Oprah’s gospel of self-actualization.

Ann Voskamp’s excellent blog "Dear Kids: Why Wait till Marriage." Here’s a quote, “Your naked body deserves the honor of being shared only with someone who is covenanted to never stop loving your naked soul.”

· Would you pray for Dan & Jen Beilman – Dan’s father passed away this week. Address is 3009 Parkway Cheverly, MD 20785.

· For Ross Kuntz – he had a very risky heart surgery last week and remains in critical condition.

· For a friend whose teenage son is enslaved to drugs (crushing and snorting his Wellbutrin and huffing compressed air.) Pray for Jesus to rescue him – no one else can.

· This weekend in worship I’m preaching on Ephesians 2:11-18. It will be sweet to be together again.


September 10, 2014

 Dear Fam,

Wow – packed house on Sunday! I can’t remember the last time we had to set up chairs in the back in September! You guys are doing an awesome job bringing friends and coworkers to SRPC and you are making our church a place of welcome to hurting, broken people (like us) in our community! So proud to be one of your pastors.

· SRCS did a mass ice bucket challenge to raise money for ALS research and our own Ken Wackes! It was beautiful!

· Proud of the 55 families enrolled in the Financial Peace U! Are you aware of the amount of financial bondage people are struggling under? An anonymous survey of those in the class revealed these stats:
- Number of families in the class: 55
- Total non-mortgage debt:   $1,945,127.55
- Total liquid cash available: $426,206.44
- Open credit card accounts: 200

· Somebody from The Villages donated a souped-up, fancy golf cart to SRPC. It’s so fast our Facilities Manager took Donna Nelson and Wendy Cash for a spin in it on Hwy 44. Here’s a fun picture of their jaunt!

· If you haven’t read enough of the Victoria Osteen kerfuffle. Here are two articles exposing the aberrant teaching of the Osteens. 
The Osteen Predicament – Mere Happiness Cannot Bear the Weight of the Gospel;
The Osteens’ Donald Sterling Moment

· This Cheerios commercial is a rare TV depiction of Dad’s as competent and valuable.

· Tonight is Pastor’s Class #2. Say a prayer for Jesus to draw people to himself tonight. We’ve got a group of 50+ -- could be our best class ever! I’ll see you this weekend in worship – preaching on Ephesians 2:1-10. Won’t it be good to be together again?