The Monticello church of Christ

As we neared Monticello, Florida, I had heaven on the brain, and the reality that we're all nomads, you and I, (Hebrews 11:13) on a journey “home” to where our eternal souls will continue to live forever. Something I'd just observed had me pondering where every believer's Grand Adventure ultimately lands. This train of thought had originated from a stop on the way to Monticello, Florida to explore Blue Spring in Madison, Florida. 


When we parked, we noticed a Canadian license plate, something we hadn’t seen during this quest, due to the borders being closed for well over a year because of the pandemic. 


I had always wanted to see the brilliant shades of blues and green in these kinds of springs, and it wasn’t until we stumbled upon a ranger, while on an observation deck overlooking the spring, who was waiting for some divers to safely surface, that we learned that about thirty feet below the colorful pool was a maze of cave passages that certified cave divers from across the globe come to Madison to explore. Eventually, we saw the bubbles from the tanks of a couple of these divers surfacing, and as they rested by the deck stairs later, we could hear them talking about their dive. I can only imagine the beauty of what they must have witnessed! 


As we hiked around the lake, I kept thinking to myself that the pristine hues of the clean water I was seeing seemed to me to be perhaps the closest thing I would ever see, on this side of eternity, to the "a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb"(Revelation 22:1).


It was dark by the time we pulled our conspicuous, big, black van into the parking lot of the Monticello church of Christ. This warm church family welcomed us with such genuine interest that it felt impossible to get all our initial conversations in before Bible class was to begin. There was still so much to say. 


After a lively and lighthearted drill to name the primary content of each chapter in Genesis, we landed on chapter twenty-five. For the duration of the class, we shared ideas about how we could prevent ourselves from falling into the moral traps and bearing the inevitable painful ripple effects that Issac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau fell into, including such things as favoritism, manipulation, exploitation, deception, and lack of foresight.


It was a conversation that many in the class participated in and was a very useful class, given the fact that every one of us has been guilty of many of the same sins that tripped up our spiritual forefathers. Toward the end of our hour together, the brother who led our study presented the solution to all that entrapment with an entry from Gary Henry’s book Obeying The Gospel, entitled “Jesus Christ and Him Crucified”. It read:


“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2


Paul was grateful for his brethren in Corinth, but he was worried about them.. they had divided into factions, each group following its favorite teacher of the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). This kind of sectarianism was very common in cities like Corinth, of course, where the public forum was filled with philosophers, orators, and teachers - each wooing followers by showing himself to be more on the intellectual cutting edge than the others.


Yet this was the very kind of attractiveness Paul had tried to avoid. "I decided," he said, "to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." And his reason was both clear and practical: "My speech and my message were not in plausible words of that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God" (1 Corinthians 2:4,5).


"Jesus Christ": It is hard for human reason to accept the fact that the Creator of the universe took human form in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, but that is exactly what the gospel affirms. Only once in history did such a thing happen- and having happened, the Person in whom it happened, Jesus, is now the One through whom God is offering to reconcile human beings to Himself.


"And Him crucified": When God became a man, He did so in order to die for our sins. It was not to be a great prophet or a perfect moral example but to die an atoning death that God entered our world as a human being. Speaking of Himself, Jesus said, "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). So the gospel is not just the message of Christ; it is the message of Christ crucified. If God, in the person of Jesus Christ, did not die for our sins, then we are still lost.


We come to Christ, accepting His invitation, we come empty-handed, recognizing our own insufficiency and lack of power to procure our own salvation. But more than that, we come yielding to His decision as to our greatest need. Whatever other gifts our "wisdom" might say are more needful, we are content to receive that for which He was crucified: the forgiveness of our sins.


‘Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to thy cross I cling

Augustus Montague Toplady’”


As we stood to sing, it was to me an invitation to everyone present to see, for all eternity, something worlds more beautiful than what I had seen earlier that day. It was an invitation to loose our feet from the chains we often forge ourselves, to be set free from the resulting chaos, and one fine day to see for ourselves the "...river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb"(Revelation 22:1). 


As we stood to sing the following song we were, in essence, asking God to awaken our hearts and minds so that we can be forever focused on that glorious moment when we are reunited with Him throughout eternity.


Light The Fire: Lyrics by Bill Maxwell


“I stand to praise You,
But I fall to my knees.
My spirit is willing,
But my flesh is so weak.
Light the fire 
In my soul,
In my weary soul
Fan the flame, 
Make me whole.
Make my spirit whole
Lord, You know
Oh Lord You know
Just where I've been,
Where I've been
So light the fire in my heart again.
I feel Your arms around me,
As the power of Your healing begins.
You breathe new life right through me,
Like a mighty rushing wind.
So light the fire in my heart again,
Light the fire in my heart again,
Light the fire in my heart again."

After Nathan Peeler’s great class concluded, we lingered to connect and get to know these brethren a little better. It was encouraging to hear how the men were gathering regularly to pray together, how they were assisting one another in this way or that, and how some were driving substantial distances to worship with this church family. 


As we chatted over the big and little things in life, many shared with us their ideas for things we could see and do in the area, including joining them to watch a small-town, lighted holiday parade later in the week. By the time we parted ways, we even had an invitation from Sandra and Jerry Boltz to "moochdock" on their property. We sensed these brethren wanted to extend their time with us as much as they could — a quality I’m sure their other visitors also sense, and is so key to a congregation's growth. 


We took them up on their offer and to express our gratitude for their eagerness to show hospitality to strangers (the very day before they had more company coming in!), we treated them to dinner at a Mexican restaurant. 


When we woke up on their five acres early the next morning, there was a rare, picturesque blanket of fog that lay heavy between the trees. Jerry made us a hot breakfast, and as we sat around the dining table we discussed things that many of us would barely entrust to a therapist. Later on the porch, Sandra and I were still sharing our thoughts when their next houseguests arrived, whom we also got to know through a long, open conversation. 


Anticipating the long drive ahead of us to the Twin Lakes at Defuniak Springs, we gifted both couples as many copies of Your Fresh Start as they thought they could gift in one year to whatever friends and family they wanted to help draw near to God. Then we said our goodbyes along with a promise to stop in sometime when we were back in the area so we could again enjoy these beautiful people with such open hearts. 


Monticello Church of Christ
475 S. Jefferson Street
Monticello, Florida 32344