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

September 29, 2017

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5

When I was a kid, my favorite TV commercials were the ones for NESTEA instant tea. Most of the commercials featured a parched actor who sipped on a refreshing glass of tea.  As the sip quenched the thirst, the actor would start to fall backwards. A pool would appear out of nowhere and the actor would splash into the water, flat on his or her back and still clutching the glass of instant tea. The tagline for the commercials was “Take the NESTEA plunge!”

As kids we thought this “plunge” was hysterical. We had a pool, so there were many attempts by my brother and sister and me to copy these commercials in our own backyard. Wisely our parents nixed our desires to actually carry a full glass of tea with us.

I was never very good at taking the NESTEA plunge.  The commercials made it look easy - you just lay backwards and fall - not a lot of style to it. But I could never just do it. I would usually start to worry at the last moment and jerk myself so that I’d land hard on my bottom instead. 

But my dad - he was the king of the NESTEA plunge. He could fall straight back from the diving board or the side of the pool and just lay flat out and it never looked like it hurt. I was always in awe of his performances and the fact that he just went for it. He was confident and sure and trusted that he’d splash down just fine. To be honest, I felt a little ashamed that I didn’t have that same amount of trust in my own abilities or in gravity and fluid dynamics.

Plunging into new things always requires a level of trust. When you or your parents chose baptism for you, it demonstrated trust in God’s promise of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Baptism provides you with a new identity in Christ; a covenant between you and God begins. It starts with putting our whole trust in God and His love for us despite being sinners. How amazing is it that we can put our trust in Him even though we are clearly imperfect? I am sometimes overwhelmed by the enormity of the love God has for me despite all my flaws and how much I mess up.

Yet, as humans, we sometimes find it hard to trust. We have relationships with one another that don’t end well. Or we feel that we can no longer rely on people we have trusted as a result of something they’ve done. We even go so far to believe that we can’t fully trust God. We can experience fear or concern that maybe, just maybe, this isn’t really as easy as it sounds. We believe He forgives sins, but maybe we don’t quite accept that He forgives OUR sins. Or we say that we trust His love and power, but we carry on in our lives as if we are the ones in control instead of God. We struggle with our own burdens and staunchly refuse to let God shoulder some of the weight. 

How wonderful it would be if we constantly kept our trust in God at the center of all we do and how we live each day. Can you live out Proverbs 3:5 - pushing your own understanding aside to rely entirely on Jesus? How often do you look up to recognize that you have clung to your own understanding instead of Him? It’s so tempting to go it alone, yet plunging in our Savior’s promises is much easier.

This week we are continuing our series One Faithful Promise. The message will be focused on claiming our covenant with God. I can’t wait to share with you how we can commit ourselves to pouring all of our trust in God.

See you in church!

Jenn Blessing

July 7, 2017

18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Matthew 4:18-22 NIV

When I was in the middle of third grade, my dad changed jobs. We were living in Pennsylvania and his job was now in New York. My parents wanted us to finish out the school year in Pennsylvania. For about six months, my dad would work in New York during the week and drive home to Pennsylvania for the weekends. It was a challenge but we all got through it. Dad would call home a lot to talk with us and keep up with all of us.

One day, I got to the phone first. When I answered I heard a male voice say, “Jennifer! Hello!” I immediately responded with, “Daddy! I miss you. How are you?” And I began to chatter away about things I wanted to share with my dad. After about a minute, I stopped to catch my breath and listened to the other person say, “Jennifer, um, this isn’t your dad. This is your Uncle Bob.” I was mortified that I had confused my dad with his younger brother. I was so eager to talk to my dad that I plunged headlong into a conversation without even listening to who was speaking to me. I remember passing the phone off to my mom and running upstairs in horror at my mistake.

Years later, I still remember the embarrassment of not checking who I was talking to. My 8-year-old self thought this was the most horrible thing I could do - to answer a call and guess the caller incorrectly. If only we had caller ID back in the 1970s!

As much as I was embarrassed at the time, I realize now that younger me was much more brave. I was willing to jump right into a conversation without the hesitancy that creeps in with maturity and adulthood.

When we are called, how eagerly do we answer? Do we respond with a willing heart? Or do we tiptoe around the call? Maybe we make excuses that we are not ready or that it’s not the right time to talk. Perhaps we know the reason we are being called, but we just don’t want to respond. Maybe we want to say no, but we realize that that’s not the right answer, so we avoid the call at all costs.

Not responding when we are called doesn’t always work so well. Consider Jonah. In the second verse of the first chapter of Jonah, God tells Jonah to “get up and go.” And in the third verse it says, “But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord.” Wow. Jonah didn’t even answer God but just ran away. It’s almost like a young child putting his fingers in his ears and saying “I’m not listening!” when mom or dad say to clean up or go to bed.

Jonah’s reluctance doesn’t come without cost. Sitting in the belly of a big fish is probably a timeout technique no one ever wants to endure. But he learns that God’s call is not a mere suggestion. When God calls us, there is a power to action that inspires us. Even if we are filled with trembling at the call, God’s call is designed for who we are. He knows us and our talents and our capabilities. He knows that a “yes” response is well within us and He makes us brave enough to respond.

This Sunday, we will explore how we respond to God’s call. Are you a Jonah, running as far as you can from God? Or are you like James and John, throwing down your nets and going immediately? Or maybe you are not even clear if it is God who is calling to you. May our time of worship be filled with hope and bravery as we talk about truly hearing God whether He whispers our names or He shouts it from the mountain tops.

See you in church!

Jenn Blessing

May 19, 2017

“Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you.”  1 Timothy 4:16 NLT

When our kids were little, they engaged in a lot of pretend play, acting out silly stories and creating colorful characters out of the sheer power of imagination.  Animals, superheroes, and the like were constantly traipsing through our family room. One day, our daughter slipped into the role of playing a mom while her brother was the dad.  She grabbed a toy purse and a notebook and loudly declared to her “husband,” “I’m off to another meeting!” In that moment, I saw myself through her eyes, always rushing off to church meetings, PTA meetings, work meetings, etc. Without any direct instruction, she had distilled down my whole mom identity to an action she had seen me perform over and over again. As I watched her at play, I began to fervently pray that she had watched me live out moments beyond going to meetings.  I also began to realize that if she hadn’t, then perhaps it was because I needed to live out my life differently. 

Throughout our lifetimes, we learn by watching others.  We often look to what other people’s life stories are telling us about them. How we live is a bold and loud proclamation to those around us about our values, our focus, and even our passions. Friends who frequent certain sporting events, people who post on social media about their favorite comic books, strangers whose crazy bumpers stickers we read while in traffic - these all are moments that identify others to us and tell a part of their stories to those who are watching. What are we conveying to others around us? And how much of those stories we are telling are centered on our faith? 

In his letter to Timothy, Paul clearly knew that the story of our lives and our identity is embedded in how we live. His words to Timothy are a direct reminder to remain faithful and constant in living as a Christ follower. Paul knew that many needed to hear the news of the gospel. But he wanted to be sure that the gospel story didn’t merely change hearts, but it changed the way people lived out their lives. Paul himself was a radical example of how powerful Jesus’ love is when it comes to changing how life is lived. And he poured that into Timothy, ensuring that Timothy focused on being an example for others.

This Sunday, I have the privilege of giving a sermon on living our lives to leave a mark on those that come after us.  Join us as I share more thoughts on “Living Your Legacy” and how God calls us to pour into others as Paul did for Timothy.  See you in church!

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Pastor Tim Machtel

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3315 S. Bryan Rd. | Brandon, FL 33511 | 813.689.6849

Sunday Worship: 8:15, 9:45, 11:15 a.m.