August 24, 2018

“Many Samaritans in that city believed in Jesus because of the woman’s word when she testified, “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” John 4:39 CEB

Last Saturday following the Five14 worship service Debbie and I went to dinner. We tried a new place we have not been to before. It is a nice Mexican restaurant that featured good typical food, live music, and friendly staff. Usually on Saturday night we spend a good amount of time deciding where we would like to eat dinner. This particular night Debbie knew right away where she wanted to eat dinner. I asked her why she wanted to go there, she said several people had recommended the place and we should give it a try. Because of the testimony of a few people we ended up giving the restaurant a visit. We liked it and may go back. This is the way businesses have gotten business since the beginning of businesses. Most businesses cannot afford big expensive ad campaigns. So, they rely on word of mouth advertising—you and me talking about how much we enjoyed our experience and telling others they should go. In our case, it worked.

This is similar to the story of the woman at the well with Jesus. She had this incredible, and supernatural, experience with Jesus at the well. He told her things about herself that he couldn’t have known naturally. Through his divine nature, as fully God and fully human, Jesus knew that she had five husbands previously and was with a man to whom she was not married. Jesus then tells her that he is the Messiah. He knows more than she can imagine. Because of this revelation, she runs into town and begins telling people to come with her to meet Jesus—the Messiah. One of the most incredible word of mouth ad campaigns in all of history. People went out to meet Jesus in great numbers and believed in Jesus. It says in the verse above, many of them “believed in Jesus because of the woman’s word when she testified.” All she had to do was tell them what happened, Jesus did the rest. She testified, and Jesus justified—made them right with God by God’s grace and through their faith in Jesus as the Messiah. One woman’s testimony about Jesus led to a bunch of people believing in Jesus. Still more believed because they heard Jesus in person.

This is what it should be like for anyone who has encountered Jesus. We should be so moved and changed by the work of Jesus Christ in our heart and life that we cannot stop from telling others. Spreading the light of Christ is the work of Jesus followers. A true disciple of Jesus tells anyone who will listen about what Jesus did for them. We have been talking about having a heart at peace—seeing others as people with needs, fears, and desires as real as our own. If we are seeing people as children of God and people of worth we must make sure everyone knows about Jesus. The person at the grocery store, the person at work, the other parents of my kid’s sports team, the parents of my kid's dance team, my neighbors, my extended family—everyone. Once you have good news you want others to have it also. This is what it means to spread peace—the peace that passes all understanding.

Will you spread peace today? Will you share the love of Christ? You can help others begin to see people as people by having a heart at peace. When you see people the way God sees people, you will begin to treat people the way Jesus treated people. This is your testimony. I am reminded of the words of a song by Big Daddy Weave:

“If I told you my story, you would hear hope that wouldn’t let go.

And if I told you my story you would hear love that never gave up.

And if I told you my story, you would hear life, but it wasn’t mine.

If I should speak then let it be of the grace that is greater than all my sin,

of when justice was served and where mercy wins,

of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in.

Oh, to tell you my story is to tell of him.”

Go tell your story! Go spread peace! Go and testify about Jesus!

This Sunday we conclude the message series The Heart of Peace. We will discuss what it takes to spread peace from a heart at peace. I hope you will join us this week and every week. The best is ahead for St. Andrew’s. I can’t wait to see you in church!

August 17, 2018

"The woman said, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one who is called the Christ. When he comes, he will teach everything to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I Am—the one who speaks with you.” John 4:25-26 CEB

It had been an extremely rainy week. Because of all of the rain it made our work difficult. Most of everything we were being asked to do was outside. There were not many, and sometimes no, options for getting out of the rain. A group of folks decided that they would not try and fight the rain. Instead, these folks went with it. They embraced the rain and developed ways to incorporate the soggy, muddy conditions into their work. On the last day of the week, when the work was done, they planned to embrace the conditions to their fullest. We had been working to put on Vacation Bible School for impoverished kids in four different neighborhoods in San Ramon, Costa Rica. One group was assigned a neighborhood that was on a very steep hillside. The pathway that led up the hillside was dirt and by the end of the week it was pure mud. Not Florida mud but Costa Rican mud. They planned out a morning of having fun going down the biggest mudslide ever. They created an environment of play. They turned a rainy, messy situation into a lot of fun for everyone.

Of course, when the bus came to pick them up to take them back to the mission they were a mess. Several of them were covered from head to toe in thick Costa Rican mud. They had to sit on garbage bags before the driver would let them on the bus. They were nasty. When they got back to the mission we all agreed they needed to hit the showers first. After the shower, what was filthy and dirty was now clean and presentable again. They were a mess, but they cleaned up well. I believe there are two lessons to learn from this group of missionaries.

First, we can create an environment of fun and redemption anywhere. It is largely up to us to look for and create places where we can be at peace. Places where others can be at peace as well. Just because situations in our life look like a total wash doesn’t mean they are. Maybe you are in a relationship that is strained and you don’t see how it will ever be restored. You can create a space for yourself to be at peace about the relationship. You can invite the other person to be at peace about it as well. You cannot change another person, but you can invite them to change. The environments we create and choose to enter into are important when it comes to being at peace. The missionaries could have been stressed, upset, frustrated, and spent their time focusing on the negative. Instead, the missionaries chose to be at peace with the situation and create an environment where peace and fun could flourish. It is possible to create an environment where peace will thrive.

Second, if we are the mess we can clean it up. Improvement doesn’t depend on others. The missionaries were a complete mess, but they didn’t spread that mess on anyone else. They also didn’t ask anyone else to clean the mess off. They knew they could clean themselves up and in turn clean up the mess. How often do we forget this about our life? When it comes to having a heart at peace or a heart at war, if you are the mess—you can clean it up. Having our mess cleaned up, or choosing a heart at peace, will allow us to see things clearly and see others as people. If you are the mess, you can clean it up.

The fact is we are all a mess. We all need an environment of redemption. We all need to be cleaned up. Because of the pervasive nature of sin, we are not able to clean up our own sin mess. We are sinners in need of a savior. This is the point of the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. She had sin in her life. She knew there was something wrong which forced her to come to the well at noon. She longed for the water that Jesus offered precisely because of her sin. She knew there was more to life than she was experiencing. This was the reason she had a heart at war toward Jesus. Jesus disarms this and creates an environment for honesty and truth-telling. Jesus sees her as a person. When she tells him she knows the Messiah is coming, Jesus reveals who he is. Jesus says, “I AM—the one who speaks with you.” Jesus creates the environment and offers to cleanse her soul. All she has to do is respond.

Are you a mess today? Do you desire a heart at peace? The Good News is you can be clean! You can do the work today to get in the right environment for peace and redemption. You can do the work of cleaning up by asking Christ to cleanse you and make you right. You can choose to have a heart at peace. You can choose to begin to exert influence toward peace instead of provocation toward war. The choice is yours.

This Sunday we continue the message series The Heart of Peace. We will discuss what it takes to move from a heart at war to a heart at peace. I hope you will join us this week and every week. The best is ahead for St. Andrew’s. I can’t wait to see you in church!

August 10, 2018

"The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here to draw water!’”   John 4:15 CEB

There are times in life when we know there is something a little off, something missing, and things are just not clicking. In automotive terms you could say things are just not firing on all cylinders. The feeling we are having is real and powerful and yet we are not able to fully identify what it is that is missing. Over the past several months, and probably much longer than I had realized, I had been feeling this way. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I knew something was off. About a month ago I had another person recommend a particular book to me, again. The book was The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict, by the Arbinger Group. I had heard many of my colleagues talking about the book and it had even been recommended by our bishop. So I decided to order the book and read it. Can I tell you that almost immediately upon beginning this book I knew the content was what I was missing. What I had been missing, what was off, was the need for a greater sense of peace in my life. This book helped me understand that.

I am not talking about inner peace in my faith life. I am talking about peace in the midst of conflict. In our current culture conflict seems ever present. There is conflict in political circles, conflict in relationships, conflict in beliefs, and conflict on television and the movies. People are killing each other both literally and figuratively. Conflict seems to be fairly pervasive in this particular moment in life and history. Yes, there is even conflict in churches. So, what I was lacking and what I was longing for was peace. Don’t you long for peace, too? The book The Anatomy of Peace came to me at exactly the right time in my life. I was like the woman at the well who longed for a new reality. You see, this Samaritan woman was longing for renewal and a new start. She was a social outcast who was drawing water at noon. She was tired of having to draw water from that well alone. This is why she is excited about Jesus telling her there was living water. She jumps at the chance to experience what was lacking in her life, that for which she thirsts. This is what is so wonderful about her response to Jesus. She says, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will never be thirsty and will never need to come here to draw water.”

As much as Jacob’s well signified a part of the history of her people, it also represented for her a place of shame and social stigma. If she received the water Jesus offered, not only would her thirst be quenched forever (receiving that which she lacked), but her shame would be removed (never having to return to that well).

What do you thirst for? What are you lacking in your life? Your heart? What is missing for you? What makes you come to the well at noon? We all have moments of shame and guilt that cause us to feel disconnected to people. We don’t have to remain that way. Jesus offers fresh, living water to everyone who will receive. Water that transforms our shame and water that quenches our thirst forever. Jesus knows what our sin and shame is and what we thirst for in our life. This is not generic water from a community well. Jesus offers personalized water to quench our thirst and to wash away our shame. The water is available to all and yet very personal to each person. This is why the woman requests of Jesus, “Sir, give me this water.”

Are you thirsty? Today is the day to ask Jesus to give us this water. Today is the day to set aside our shame and seek forgiveness. Today is the day to receive that which we lack and that for which we long. Today is the day we can receive peace. Jesus offers this water freely to everyone. Will you receive? Will you drink? Transformation is just one decision, one question, away. So, let’s drink deeply of the living water Jesus offers. Let’s find peace, find forgiveness, find joy, and find intimacy with Jesus. Today is the day!

This Sunday we continue the message series The Heart of Peace. We will discuss how easy it is to move from a heart at peace to a heart at war. I hope you will join us this week and every week. The best is ahead for St. Andrew’s. I can’t wait to see you in church!

August 3, 2018

“If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.”   Romans‬ ‭12:18‬ ‭CEB‬‬

It was a pretty normal day on the playground. Everyone was playing on the equipment, hanging out and talking, or playing an organized game. There was a group of kids playing four square. The game was getting competitive as time went on. Tempers were beginning to flare and one kid in particular was starting to trash talk—as much as a fifth grader can trash talk. This is what got me in trouble. I didn’t read the situation correctly. He was actually really mad about something, I now know it probably had nothing to do with four square. As he did his trash talking I was cracking jokes about it. The next thing I knew I was on the ground with the trash talker on top of me getting ready to hit me. This is how my first fight began.

I remember the teachers breaking us up and leading us both to the principal’s office. The principal of Angling Road Elementary School began to lecture us. He told us our behavior was unacceptable. For the record, I certainly agree that fighting isn’t the answer—it wasn’t that day. The entire focus was on our behavior. Fighting was unacceptable and that behavior needed to be corrected. The approach was punitive in correcting our behavior. There were consequences and a price had to be paid. We were punished with the elementary school equivalent of work crew.

I never had a fight again in elementary school. The behavior was corrected, for both of us, but we were not fundamentally changed because of the incident. The other kid still had a quick temper and everyone else learned to walk away. I still cracked jokes, but I learned how to better read situations. I believe the real problems were underneath all of the behavior. I tended to use other people to get a laugh. The other kid took out his problems on others through his anger and aggression. The behavior changed but the two individuals were not really any different. 

How would the outcome have been different if the principal had sought to know what was really going on? (He was a great principal by the way.) The real problem was that we both were seeing other people as objects and not people. The heart of peace is about seeing the real story beneath the behavior that is presented. I have seen this time and time again in my life. The way we see people really matters. A heart at peace sees people as people with desires, needs, and feelings as real as our own.

How do you see people? How is your heart toward others? As the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome, “If possible, to the best of your ability, live at peace with all people.” This weekend we will start a new message series entitled The Heart of Peace. I am excited to share this message with you. I hope you will join us Saturday night or Sunday morning as we discuss the fact that peace is possible. I can’t wait to see you in church!

July 27, 2018

“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” 1 Peter 3:15

At the services this weekend, we’ll celebrate the mission and ministry of United Methodist Women! It began in the year 1869, when eight women boldly traveled through a terrible storm to their church to hear the story by two wives of missionaries to India.

Upon hearing their story about the desperate spiritual and physical needs of women in India, the explanation that a male doctor could not give medical treatment to women and that schooling for little girls was almost non-existent, these eight women took action and organized the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society. Through this society they were able to raise the necessary funds to send two women, one a teacher and the other a doctor, as missionaries to help the women and children in India.

The teacher, Ms. Isabelle Thoburn, and the doctor, Dr. Clara Swain, boldly left family, friends, home and country to answer God’s call to care for the women and children in a land unknown to them—India.

From the bold actions of those women, almost 150 years of ministry to women, children and youth have taken place and continues to this day! Throughout the years the organization has gone through a few name changes, but today you will recognize it as United Methodist Women!

Just as God called those women so long ago, He continues to call each of us today, and equips all of us with “gifts and talents,” not only women, but men, youth and children! AND God will provide each of us an opportunity to share them! When he provides you your opportunity, will you boldly go forth?

Looking forward to seeing you in church!

July 20, 2018

"43 But that’s not the way it will be with you. Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant.”  Mark 10:43 CEB

In our culture it should not be surprising that someone would sacrifice one hour every week to go to church. Sunday is not the sacred day it used to be in our culture. Yet, when someone decides that they will go to church on Sunday it is a fairly normal experience in our society. I drive to church every Sunday morning and pass a lot of people who seem to be heading to church. I am not surprised when people come to church. I am very pleased when they come to St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church, but I am not surprised. I believe it is still a very important place to be on a Sunday morning, or a Saturday night.

So here is something that I am very surprised by … I am surprised when someone truly loves Jesus and is willing to make sacrifices for the sake of their Savior. I am surprised when an executive who is on track for major success and wealth decides to pour their life into building an orphanage instead of advancing to the next rung on the ladder of success. I am surprised when a retired business woman decides to give away her dividends from her stock to help build the kingdom instead of continuing to build her wealth. I am surprised when people who are not rich by worldly standards decide to give more than they ever thought they would to support the mission of the church. I am surprised when people give up vacation time to serve the church here in Brandon, in Jacksonville, in Costa Rica, and in Africa. I am surprised when people are so sold out to the mission of the local church that they will work on like they are on staff for free!

What is the difference between those who attend church on Sunday and those who love Jesus so much they are willing to sacrifice? It is the radical change the resurrection of Jesus Christ makes in one’s life. The reality is some accept Jesus, some are sold out to Jesus. In the narratives of Jesus’ life there are three types of people: 1) The Crowds, 2) The Followers, and 3) Disciples. The crowds are seeking to see what’s different about Jesus, many of the followers are seeking to understand Jesus, the disciples are called to serve everyone.

The crowds were curious people. These folks just wanted to catch a glimpse of this guy named Jesus. They had heard the buzz about all Jesus had been doing and they wanted to see it for themselves. These folks were not committed to what Jesus was teaching, they simply wanted to see what everyone was talking about. It was awesome that they were seeking to see what was different about Jesus. Seeing may very well have led to believing for some of them.

The followers were those who came and saw what Jesus was doing and decided to follow him. Perhaps they believe if they could just see him, touch the hem of his garment, their life would change. They had to take time off work, rearrange their schedule and follow Jesus wherever Jesus went. They believed at a strong level Jesus was special, he was the Messiah, the Son of God. They were willing to give some of their time and sacrifice some areas of their lives to follow Jesus.

The disciples, however, left everything to follow Jesus. These folks were radically changed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They sacrificed their careers, their families, and eventually (for some) their lives for the cause of Jesus. They were the ones who were charged with carrying out the mission of Jesus Christ to go into all the nations. They were the ones who changed everything. Despite all of this they argued about who was the greatest among them. Jesus knew they were arguing about this when he said, “But that’s not the way it will be with you.” In other words, you need to be different. Jesus went on to say, “Whoever wants to be great among you will be your servant.”

Christ calls us to follow him with our whole life. It isn’t enough to be curious, it isn’t enough to follow for a while. We are called to sacrificial service, to be different, to be radically changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Has the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus radically changed your heart and mind? If so, it is to be different with you. The question becomes, “How can I serve everyone today, Lord?” Go and be different! Go and be a servant!

This weekend we will hear from members of our Thrive Student Ministry missions team. We will discuss the influence serving together in Jacksonville and how God worked in and through them. I hope you will join us this week and every week. The best is yet to come at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!

July 13, 2018

6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. 8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” 

Matthew 26

When I was a little girl, my dad went on a trip and brought me back the most delightful little green notebook. It had my name embossed on the cover and it was just the right size for writing down my important 7-year-old thoughts. I truly believed it to be one of the most special presents I had. So it had to be used for an important purpose.

And yet, that little notebook never got used.

I was so attached to the idea of making it a special book full of the best things I could write, that I never used it for anything. I kept it in my desk drawer for many years. Every time I opened the drawer, I felt disappointed in myself when I saw its smooth green cover.

Focusing on what is our best can sometimes be overwhelming. My 7-year-old self wanted to not just write—but to be THE BEST writer I could be. So I failed to use that beautiful little gift. And it became a source of great pain for me. If only I had just poured myself into writing in the notebook, I might now have a great record of my young thoughts. Rather than stressing about it, I wish I had put my best effort into using the gift.

What if we became like the woman in Matthew 26:6-13 who took the best thing she had and definitively put it to use without a second thought? She put her expensive perfume to use on Jesus rather than using the money for something like helping the poor. Her actions disappointed the disciples. But the actions delighted Jesus. Oh to be like this woman would be an amazing opportunity.

The disciples see a woman who is wasteful in their eyes. According to them, she’s pouring this expensive perfume on Jesus without a thought to its monetary value. They have chosen to focus on the value of the items rather than the value of the “beautiful thing” as Jesus puts it.

Jesus’ response to their outcry that the perfume could be put to better use is a rebuke for all of us to remember. Things of high value may have purpose in the world for certain. Yes, the woman could have sold the perfume and used the money for charity or whatnot. But the purpose for which she uses the perfume is of higher value. She has shown the value she places on Jesus. He is the priority of her focus.

Can you imagine if we all brought our best to Jesus first? What would the world look like if we always had such a focus in our lives? How we worship, how we interact with others, those would all be intensely better. We would draw closer to him in our actions and in our hearts.

When we bring our best to worship, it doesn’t mean our fanciest clothes or perfect haircuts. It means we have given God the best we have to offer FIRST. He doesn’t deserve for us to merely offer our leftovers to Him. He deserves to be THE priority of our heart. And if we come to Him willing to spill out the best that we have—that is true honor, reverence and worship.

This weekend at worship services, I have the honor of giving the message, where I will talk about giving our best to God. For 11 years I’ve been very involved in our Vacation Bible School ministry and I’ll be sharing the lessons I’ve learned through VBS to inform how we can bring our best to God on a weekly basis.

So come join us on Saturday or Sunday. Don’t worry about your fanciest and your best. Merely bring your heart and a priority to worship God. For that is the best He is looking for.

See you in church!
Jenn Blessing

July 6, 2018

"18 Tell them to do good, to be rich in the good things they do, to be generous, and to share with others.”   1 Timothy 6:18 CEB

It was just a normal stop in for lunch and some conversation. There were four of us in the party and each one ordered their food without any fanfare, or even much interaction with the person behind the counter taking the orders. The last person to order looked at the person and asked them how they were doing. They asked if it had been a busy day or a slow one. Then they placed their order like everyone else. At the end of the order they asked, “I would really like a piece of that chocolate banana pie, can you make that happen?” They were just having a little bit of fun with the person taking their order. Of course, they got the full order ready—including a piece of chocolate banana pie. When the last person in our party went to pay the cashier said, “The pie is on me.” We all shared the pie and it was a wonderful treat that had been generously offered by someone who did not have to. She offered generosity to a customer simply because they had treated her well.

I have come to believe that we are all generous people at our core. It is in our DNA—it’s who we are. This is why we enjoy giving gifts at Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, and the like. We enjoy seeing the reaction of the person receiving the gift. It’s great to see someone smile when they are given something—especially when the gift is unexpected. We are made to be generous with our time, talents, gifts, service, and witness. It seems like at some time in our life we learn to do the opposite. We begin to be told that we should stock up for a rainy day and protect our stuff, and the more stuff the better. However, do we really need all the stuff we already have? Is it really necessary to continue to accumulate in excess? In most cases we don’t accumulate money to excess, but there are examples of that to be certain. Most of the time we truly accumulate stuff. What if we learned to live with less and were generous with the rest?

The Bible seems to uphold the notion of living a simple, yet generous, life. Proverbs 15:6, “Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.” We also find the generous lifestyle of the early church in Acts 2:44, “All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as they had need.” Finally, Proverbs 11:24 reads, “One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.” We know also that Jesus told his disciples that he did not even have a place to lay his head. Yet, Jesus gave more than anyone out of the wealth that he did have. Here are some of the phrases that speak of the generosity of Jesus Christ—“healed ALL the sick,” “he healed ALL their sick," “ALL who touched him were healed,” “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” and “I can never stop thanking God for all the generous gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus.” We serve a generous God who sent a generous savior so that we might be generous followers.

Will you be generous today? Generous with your time—especially with those you love. Will you be generous with your talents and abilities? Will you be generous with your financial gifts to support the work of Christ in this world? Will you be generous in your service to others? Finally, will you be generous in your witness to the world concerning Christ’s love? We are called to be generous with our whole life because we are created by a generous God. To be generous means to be liberal in giving or openhanded. Will you live an openhanded life today? Will you hold loosely the things of this world and liberally give your time, talents, gifts, service, and witness? We are generous people created by a generous God—be generous!

This Sunday we conclude the message series Influence: A Study of 1 Timothy. We will discuss the influence of generosity. I hope you will join us this week and every week. The best is yet to come at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!

June 29, 2018

"I charge you before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels to follow these principles without bias, and without playing favorites.” 1 Timothy 5:21 CEB

You’ve probably seen the scenario in movies or on television. Teams are being selected for a pick-up game (any sport really) and it is a painstaking process. The obviously gifted athletes are chosen first, then the best friends, then those who look like they may have potential, until the last person is standing all alone, unpicked. This is the time when the captain who is left with the final pick says, “Okay, you can be on the team too!” The person who is chosen first is always going to feel like they are special. The person chosen last is going to feel like—well—a loser. Those who are chosen toward the middle of the pack are, quite possibly, relieved they were not the last one chosen for the team. Have you ever been a part of those being chosen for a team in this manner? Where were you chosen? How did you feel about when you were chosen?

There are many ways this scene can be interpreted. It could be interpreted in terms of wisdom and the captain must choose wisely to win the game. We could interpret the scene in terms of how the captain handles his friends. Of course, we also may interpret it in terms of the ones being selected. At its core the scene has to do with the concept of favoritism. It’s fair to say that we all have played favorites at some point in our life. We have favorite foods, favorite music, favorite movies, favorite television shows, favorite sports teams, and the list goes on and on. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having favorites when it comes to these things. There is a problem when we play favorites in relationships.

Paul tells Timothy to follow the principles he has been taught “without bias and without playing favorites.” The Apostle Paul is really saying two things. First, follow ALL the principles, not just part of them (or your favorites). Second, don’t show special favor toward any one person. Timothy is to follow all the principles he has been taught and not pick and choose. Timothy also is to treat everyone equally. It really doesn’t matter who it is, the principles of the Gospel apply to everyone equally. When it comes to our relationships everyone should be treated equally in terms of our faith. Paul does say that the elders and leaders (including Timothy) are to take these things very seriously. This doesn’t mean, however, that everyone else can pick and choose what they follow. It doesn’t mean that we can treat some people with love and respect, according to the teachings of Jesus, and other people poorly. We need to apply the teachings of Jesus equally to everyone.

I know what some people are thinking—should I treat my wife the same as I treat the server at the restaurant? Yes! We should treat everyone equally when it comes to our faith. Your relationship is different with your spouse than a server or a coworker or even a friend. One thing is held in common in all our relationships—the way we live out the Gospel. We all live out our faith without partiality according to the teachings of Jesus (and of Paul). The role we play in each relationship will be different, but the way we live out our faith in each is the same. We are to love everyone without playing favorites. Remember the words of Jesus Christ when he told his followers to love even your enemies (Matthew 5:44). We are to show everyone the same love that Jesus has shown us.

Will you live out your faith today without playing favorites?

This Sunday we continue the message series entitled Influence: A Study of 1 Timothy. We will discuss the influence of relationships. I hope you will join us this week and every week as we dive into God’s Word. The best is yet to come at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!

June 22, 2018

"Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. Instead, set an example for the believers through your speech, behavior, love, faith, and by being sexually pure.”

1 Timothy 4:12 CEB

It was a mild fall afternoon in Brandon and we were waiting in the car line at the high school. There were dozens of cars waiting to pick up their students after a day of school. Usually the students were more than ready to get out of the school and parking lot. The parents were not longing to spend any more time in the sea of cars than necessary. However, some people were a little more anxious to leave than others. Some would get downright aggressive in their desire to be first, or next, in line. On this day one of the parents got particularly aggressive with me. Somehow, she thought I had hindered her progress or disrespected her right to be next. She proceeded to pull up next to me and honk her horn while extending a certain finger into the air in my direction. The windows were down and you could also hear her using some choice language to express her displeasure with me. This continued until we both exited the parking lot onto the main street and she sped away in anger. I remember her actions, attitude and demeanor vividly to this day. I believe others who were there that day may also remember this person. That day she chose to set an example for all to see and remember.

Once you set an example you cannot hide it. Your words, actions, love (or lack of) are on display for everyone to see. Your example cannot be taken back either. Over the next four years I saw her in car line often. I have no idea if the woman I mentioned above had any regrets after that day. Her daughter was in the car with her and both of my daughters were in the car with me. There were dozens of other parents and students observing this example. I have often wondered what the students all thought about her behavior, especially her own daughter. I know my girls were embarrassed if I played the radio too loud when picking them up. I also don’t know what had been happening in the woman’s life to have her respond the way she did. I really did pray for her that day. One thing I know for sure … this woman’s example was not a positive one. She chose to behave poorly, use corrosive and toxic language, and not be loving toward another person. In fact, in my car we discussed how important it is to NOT respond in that way. We talked about how it was not worth getting that upset about something so little. It is said that we lead by example and I believe this was a poor leadership moment. I have to believe that given another chance she would have liked to respond differently.

There is great influence in our example. It can either be negative or positive—it’s our choice. There is tremendous influence in a positive, godly example. This is what Paul is telling Timothy in the verse above. Timothy is to command and teach certain things to the church in Ephesus. Paul knows that some will look down on Timothy just because of his age. Due to this, Paul reminds Timothy to not just command and teach, but to set an example for the believers. Paul knows firsthand the power of a positive, godly example. Paul goes on to say, “Practice these things, and live by them so that your progress will be visible to all.” It is important for all believers—those who follow Jesus—to understand the influence of a positive, godly example. In the Bible, we think of people like Abraham, Isaac, David, Solomon, Ruth, Esther, Deborah, Isaiah, Elijah, Peter, John, Paul and many more. We are all called to do our very best to live a positive, godly example in all things and everywhere. We do this through our words, actions, love, faith, and purity. Our example equals our influence for God.

What example will you set today? I’m sure that you will be presented with many opportunities today to respond to situations as they come up. Will you choose to set a positive, godly example from the start? I truly believe it is a choice we make every day—many times a day. You have a chance to influence those around you through your example. The One who gave his life for you chose this every day of his earthy life. Christ lived the example for all of us of the tremendous influence of a positive, godly life. Will you follow the example of Christ today in your life? It’s a choice to decide what example you will set today.

The greatest influence you may have is the example you set for others this day. May we all set a positive, godly example for all to see God’s glory in us.

This Sunday we continue the message series entitled Influence: A Study of 1 Timothy. We will discuss the influence of example. I hope you will join us this week and every week as we dive into God’s Word. The best is yet to come at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!

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