Estes College Ministry

By Jonathan Estes

Maybe early in your 2023 reading plan you read Genesis chapter 5 and the genealogy after Adam. In verse 24 we read that “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.” It is just a quick blurb that is quite remarkable. This man Enoch had a relationship with God that was so strong, that God took him straight up to heaven.

I want to have a connection with God so strong that people around me can say that I walk with God. I grow that connection when I spend time in study and meditation in His word. I grow that connection when I spend time on my knees in prayer to the Creator and Almighty. I grow that connection when I spend time in worship and public study of scripture.

I also want a connection with other people that want a connection with God. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 encourages us to connect with others so we can better connect with God. I thrive when I am being built up by my brothers and sisters and encouraged to stay strong and continue growing.

Our connections class on Sunday mornings in the basement is designed to help us connect with one another as we seek to connect more closely with God. The study of God’s Word has made a bigger impact in my life when I have shared with others the beauty, struggles and challenges that we discover on the pages of scripture.

Our college ministry stems from this connection that we seek as we look to serve others while serving God. Students of God’s Word, from age 18 to 80, join together as a large group to discuss topics and passages that challenge introspection and growth. Small groups then reflect on the topic by discussing thought provoking questions centered around the topic. The teacher will tie the group back together the last few minutes of class.

We also seek to connect in our college fellowships on the fourth Sunday night in February and April. These will be hosted at a member’s house and provide opportunities for all of us to connect with others that love God and want to encourage each other to walk with Him.

We are blessed at Estes to have an opportunity to connect with so many wonderful people that want to walk with God. So whether you are a college student spending the next 4 years of your life looking for connection with a new group of believers or you are one of our senior saints looking to connect with the next generation of believers, you will have an opportunity to connect in the Estes College ministry.

Heritage Towers

In our efforts at Estes to share the Gospel with the whole world, we are frequently reminded of mission points overseas or even miles away here in the United States where missionaries are doing wonderful things in service to the Lord. How blessed we are to be a part of a congregation that makes sharing the Gospel with the whole world a priority! While we might not think about opportunities that are closer to home quite as much, I want to tell you about an opportunity we have to encourage and evangelize some dear friends who are in our own backyard.

For the last forty years (since 1983), Heritage Towers had stood on the edge of the campus of Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson. This five-story independent living facility offers seventy-five apartment units for those of the age of 62 or over, as based on annual income. Every Sunday of the year the Estes congregation hosts a worship service at 2:00pm in the first-floor meeting room. Even though our assemblies at Heritage Towers were suspended for two years due to restrictions there related to the pandemic, it has been wonderful to meet with several of the residents there since these services resumed in August of 2022.

What are the opportunities we have to serve there? Most Sundays there are at least two sisters-in-Christ, Bobbie Bradley (originally from the Florence, AL area) and Gene Starkey (Alice Holtin’s mother), who attend the service with other residents visiting on occasion as well. In addition to this 25-30 minute worship service, we are frequently blessed to spend time visiting with these two ladies along with a number of other residents who will be sitting in the lobby or in the outdoor seating area. As an example of this, on Christmas Day we worshipped together on the fourth-floor landing due to a Christmas gathering in our usual meeting place and even that service and time of fellowship proved to be special. There are many residents at Heritage Towers who are not Christians and even though door-to-door visiting is not allowed, and access to the building can only be gained by use of a key fob, we still have many opportunities to encourage the residents there on a weekly basis.

How can you help? I don’t know of anything that encourages the residents of Heritage Towers and especially our brothers and sisters more than simply spending time with them. Even though Sundays can quickly fill up with other opportunities, I hope you will make plans to join us for the service as often you can. Secondly, we need men to sign-up to help with song-leading or presenting a devotional. This is a great way to grow in one’s ability to lead or to simply seek another opportunity to grow in our knowledge of the Word. If you can help in leading these services in any way, please look for an email this week to sign up or see Doug Burleson.

Love One Another

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

Just hours before he would make the journey to the cross, Jesus spoke the words that he intended to be the guiding principle for his disciples as they carried his mission forward. He referred to this as a “new commandment,” which must have been as curious to them as it is to us. After all, hasn’t love been a noble and essential characteristic of the people of God in every generation? That is certainly true, but in view of the expression of love Jesus is about to demonstrate, it ought to mean a lot more, both for them and for us. Jesus insists that this will be not only desirable, but essential–it will be the defining trait of those who will seek to follow Jesus.

With that in mind, the Estes congregational theme for 2023 will be “Love One Another.” Of course, this would always be a relevant and compelling subject. But surely in today’s climate it is more important than ever! Our world needs to experience the love of God, and Christians need to be beacons of love for the world to see and feel.

Over the course of the coming year, we will consider the love of God toward us, the love we should have for God, the love we should have for the lost, and the love we should have for one another. You will hear sermons on this theme, and many of our Bible classes will focus on aspects of the theme as well. It is our prayer that we can grow in love for God and others as we make this our focus for 2023.

Mark Blackwelder

He is Risen!

1 Corinthians 15:3-8: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance. Or you at the first: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas. That is, Peter and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

Mark 16:5-7: “As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.””

Luke 23:46-47: “Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last. The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, ‘Surely this was a righteous man.'”

2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

Mark 15:46-47: So, Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.

Luke 24:2-3: “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.”

Colossians 1:13-14: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Acts 4:33: “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all.”

Ephesians 1:20: “He exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.”

John 20:17-18: “Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: ‘I have seen the Lord!’ And she told them that he had said these things to her.

She, Being Dead, Still Speaks

While the language of Hebrews 11:4 was a reference to Abel (not Mabel), I’d like to appropriate and apply that phrase to a unique set of persons we read about in Matthew’s genealogy (Matt 1:1-17).

Matthew’s genealogy, unlike Luke’s, is typical of Jewish genealogies in most respects, as it proceeds from Abraham (no need to go back any further than that for his Jewish readership) to Matthew’s current day. On the other hand, it has at least one distinctive and unexpected characteristic; it includes references to five women. In our day, the reference to these women as important players God’s plan would not be surprising. In Matthew’s day, however, this would have been extraordinary.

These women are not included because of their flawless character. In fact, each of them might have had a bit of a “black eye” in her own day (deserved or not). Despite that, like the men in this genealogy, they are named because God used them to bring the Messiah into the world. Not only that, however, He continues to use them even today to show us something about Himself. What can we learn about God from these women?

Tamar (Gen 38:6-30): God keeps his promises even when others don’t. Tamar, the daughter-in-law of Judah, left childless due to the wickedness of two of Judah’s sons (and Judah’s own breach of promise) resorted to trickery to provide for her future security. Though God would not condone her actions in that case, He does use her to accomplish his plan. Application: God can and will use us too, despite what others may have done (or not done).

Rahab (Josh 2:1-21):  God’s forgiveness opens up possibilities for our future. Rahab is described as a “prostitute” (cf. James 2:25) at the time she hid the spies before the Israelites took possession of the land of Canaan. Yet her faith is commended in that moment and she becomes a part of the lineage of Christ. Application: Regardless of the mistakes of our past, it is never too late to act in faith and be used by God for His glory.

Ruth (Ruth 1-4): God notices faithfulness regardless of background. Like Rahab, Ruth is not an Israelite, though her mother-in-law (Naomi) is. Like the other women we have considered so far, she has not had the best fortune when we meet her. However, her loyalty to Naomi and her discretion even in difficult circumstances are pleasing to God, and Ruth, a widowed Moabite woman, finds a place in the lineage of Jesus as the wife of Boaz, a faithful Israelite. Application: Your ethnicity and socio-economic status do not matter to God. He can use you regardless of where you come from.

Bathsheba (2 Sam 11:1-12:24): God won’t tolerate sin, but He doesn’t hold a grudge. Bathsheba was King David’s partner in adultery (we do not know for sure about her willingness, but it doesn’t look good). She lost the child from that illicit relationship, but after her husband’s death, when she became David’s wife, she bore the heir to the throne, Solomon. Application: There are no “second-class” Christians. When we repent and follow Him the guilt of sin is forgotten.

Mary (Luke 1:26-56): God asks us to do things that don’t make sense to the world. When the angel appeared to Mary and told her that she would soon bear a child, she was unmarried. What God had chosen her to do put her at risk of death if Joseph doesn’t marry her immediately (pregnancy outside marriage looks a lot like fornication, right?) and causes her to accept a life of shame (cf. John 8:41). Yet her submission to God’s will resulted in the accomplishment of God’s mission. Application: God still asks us to do things that don’t make sense from the world’s perspective. When we submit to Him, He can work powerfully in our lives too.

These five women still speak to us—not so much about their own faithfulness but about the faithfulness of God. Will our genealogy say the same?

Photo by Artem Kovalev on Unsplash

The “New Name” of Revelation 3:12?

“The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Rev. 3:12 ESV).

The book of Revelation is filled with terminology and images borrowed from the OT. Isaiah had prophesied that the people of God would be called by “a new name” (Isa. 62:2; 65:15). In the NT the name exalted above all others is that of Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:9-11), through whom salvation is granted (Acts 4:12) and the identifying moniker of the new-covenant people of God (Acts 11:26; Jas. 2:7).

In Revelation 3:12, a message to the first-century church in the Asian city of Philadelphia, Christians are being encouraged to persevere and to overcome the challenges they are facing in order to be established in God’s “temple” (= the church, 1 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:21-22; 1 Tim. 3:15), wearing God’s name (1 Cor. 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2 Tim. 2:19; Rev. 14:1) and the name of God’s city (= the church, Heb. 12:22-23; Rev. 21:2-3; 22:14) and “my new name” (Jesus Christ) – a threefold emphasis identifying and confirming to whom the Lord’s faithful ones belong.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

On Things Above

According to a July 2021 article in the Orlando Sentinel, the average attention span for a human being is now eight seconds. Interestingly, this total is down from a twelve-second daily attention span in the year 2000. If this calculation is accurate then in the minute-and-a-half that it might take to read this article, our attention will be diverted away a minimum of eleven times! Why is this? I suppose some would blame our current climate: its smartphones, the 24-hour news cycle, social media, or politics. While there are certainly many things that distract us, I believe the number one reason that it is hard to stay focused sometimes is that we are human.

Frequently in Scripture readers are called to focus or pay attention to the things that are most important. God’s Word repeats divine instruction and recalls teachings that have already been delivered because the reality is that people often pull their focus away from the things that matter the most. It is because of this reality, and the fact that since the beginning of the pandemic early in 2020 there has been a lot of things vying for our attention, that the Estes elders have determined that our congregational theme for 2022 will be “On Things Above.” This phrase comes from Colossians 3:1-2 where the apostle Paul by inspiration wrote, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on the things that are on earth.”

While “the things on earth” must be noted and dealt with, it is the things above that are to be primary focus of God’s people. In the context of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Colossae, those Christians were dealing with all sorts of distractions, including the ungodly works (Col. 3:5-7) and words (Col. 3:8-9) that defined earthly things. Paul did not encourage these readers to give up on being godly or to completely disengage from their daily engagements, but instead he challenged them to change their focus. Look to the things of God, not worldly things that are just temporary and terrible.

God’s Word is still as relevant now as it has ever been (Heb. 4:12). As we begin a new year, may we strive to focus on things above. May we desire to be a people who do not dwell on the things of earth. May our attitudes and actions reflect eternal perspectives. May we set our attention spans, however short they may be, on spiritual things that always return to the Word of God for a centering in the things that matter the most. May we strive to build up others within the body of Christ, while also sharing the good news of Jesus with as many people as possible. Father, help us to focus on things above.

Reflections on 2020

Jeremiah 17:7–8

7 Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
8 He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.

You know, I know, everyone knows that 2020 was a difficult year for multitudes of folks, in many different ways. But often it is through serious adversity that the greatest of character traits are seen, cultivated and forged.

2020 is not gone (in a sense), but neither are the blessings that God can bring from the difficulties. Don’t just wish 2021 away because it may bring great trials. Every year God gives us is a blessing and an opportunity.

Just like being down by 17 at halftime of a football game, we don’t quit. We go forward. We find strength. We reach down deeper. We learn from mistakes. We extend encouragement. We refocus and approach our task with the right attitude.

Allow tough times to help refine you. Count the blessings you have. Turn to Him. Turn to His Word. Turn to His Son. Make the most of this year whatever it may bring.

Be safe, look up, and seek Him.

by Daren Schroeder

A message from the Estes Elders

Dear church family,

Over the past month as we have been transitioning back into meeting at the building, we have heard from many of you about concerns related to the use, or lack of use, of face masks or coverings in our worship assembly. Thank you for taking the time to express your concerns to us. We appreciate all the input we have received. The elders have prayerfully considered how we should respond to a situation in which there are many different strong opinions and feelings.

While we recognize that there is still much that we do not know about COVID-19, the elders have looked at mountains of data from medical professionals about things to do to slow or prevent spreading the virus. With cases on the rise again nationally, as well as in West Tennessee, it is especially important to do what we can to limit this viral spread. After careful consideration, we have concluded that we have much to gain, and little to lose, by continuing to abide by “best-practice” guidelines for our assembly together. These practices include maintaining 6-feet social distancing, limiting the size of crowds, using hand sanitizer, washing our hands thoroughly and frequently, avoiding congregating in small areas, and wearing a face mask or other facial covering.

Therefore, in the interest of looking out for each other, the Estes elders are requesting that everyone – if they are physically able – wear masks from the time we enter the building until we are away from the crowd. Of course, masks or face coverings will be removed for a short time while participating in the Lord’s supper, but we also request face coverings be used during singing.

If you are unable to wear a face covering, we do not expect you to be miserable or put yourself in any danger, or feel that you are not welcome. But if you are physically able, we ask you to submit to this decision, whatever your preference might be. We realize some members disagree with this, but we ask that you submit to our decision in this matter. We strongly believe it is in everyone’s best interest, physically and spiritually. We do not think this is too big a request or too hard a thing to do. If we, who are able, all wear masks and follow the other guidelines, we should cut the risk of spreading the virus by a substantial degree.

While the elders are concerned for the physical wellbeing of the body, our greater responsibility is for the spiritual wellbeing of the flock.

Shortly after the quarantine was proclaimed, we moved to an online-only service, which seemed the best short-term option to prevent widespread disease. The problem: this eliminated personal interaction and fellowship. The lessons and sermons that were so ably given helped, but we are a social people, and we need time together. Proverbs 27:17 states that “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another,” and though this can be accomplished to some extent even while we are physically apart, God meant for the church to be together.

However, if a significant percentage of our members is not abiding by these guidelines, this prohibits some in our church family from being able to attend services. Some members are in a more physically vulnerable condition than others. While we understand the wearing of face coverings and maintaining social distancing cannot entirely protect someone from catching the virus, these measures do help; and if our wearing masks and maintaining social distancing can help others to be back at Estes with the church body, we should all do that, if we are able.

In numerous passages in the Bible, our relationship with each other, and our dealings with each other, are addressed as vital parts of Christian fellowship. In Romans 12:4 and following, Paul writes that “as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” We belong to one another. Paul uses very similar language in 1 Corinthians 12, where he writes that “the body does not consist of one member but of many.” Just as in the human body, where the foot needs the hand, and where the eye needs the ear, in order to be complete and to function as it should, so in the church, we need each other to function in the way that God intends for us to live. This means that we give special consideration to others and their needs. This is the example that Jesus set for us. Philippians 2 reminds us how Jesus, in humility, counted others (us – and our needs) more significant than his own needs.  Paul in this chapter urges us to do the same in our treatment of each other: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (2:4). With these mandates from scripture and the example of the Sacrifice that allows eternal life, our walk as Christians is first of all to be an imitation of Christ’s love for us. We show our love by considering our brothers’ and sisters’ needs in this regard, even if that sometimes impinges upon our own preferences.

Finally, let us avoid resentful judgments of one another (Romans 14:1-13). “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (vv. 7-8).

If you would like to discuss this with any of us, we welcome your calls or emails. It is our prayer that we all will continue, with humility and gentleness, with patience, to bear with one another in love, eagerly maintaining the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:2-3).

The Estes Elders

2020 High School Graduates

The Estes family is very proud of our 2020 graduates. We wish you the best as you enter the next stage of life.