January 29, 2016

 

“After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “you know I love you.” “Then feed my lambs,” Jesus told him.” John 21:15

 

Have you ever had someone ask you this same question? Do you love me? The answer is revealing to be sure. There is something even more revealing than the words one uses to answer the question however. Even more important than saying the words are the actions preceding and following the question. Remember, when Jesus asked this question to Peter he already knew the answer. Jesus knew that Peter loved him. Jesus had walked with Peter, taught Peter, eaten with Peter, and called Peter the rock upon which he would build his church. Jesus knew that Peter loved him. I believe Jesus was asking Peter if he loved him in order to help Peter understand the type of love Jesus required. A love of action and not just words.

 

Peter followed Jesus and professed his belief in Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah. Peter fulfilled Jesus’ commands and did whatever Jesus asked of him. Jesus needed for Peter to now be the leader of the church of Jesus Christ. Jesus would be going to sit at the right hand of God, the Father, and he would need Peter to love him beyond following him. Every time Peter answered the question in the affirmative, Jesus asked him to do something. Jesus wanted Peter’s love to be demonstrated by feeding his lambs and tending his sheep. Jesus desires that his followers show their love for him by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the poor and widowed, visiting those in prison, and loving their neighbor everywhere. This is what love for Jesus looks like.

 

As we wrap up our series "How to Change the World," we will look at how to stay in love with God. John Wesley instructed the people called Methodists to engage in works of piety and works of mercy. Acts of piety draw us to a greater love of God through the practice of spiritual disciplines. They strengthen our love of Jesus by spending time with Jesus through prayer, Scripture reading, fasting, and worship. We also strengthen our love of Jesus by growing our love of neighbor through works of mercy. Whenever we help someone defeat poverty, injustice, or inequity in their life we are offering them mercy and love. The more we love our neighbor through works of mercy the more we demonstrate our love of Christ.

 

In my own life I have rarely, if ever, asked someone if they love me. I can either see their love for me or I cannot. Jesus knew Peter loved him. Jesus also wanted Peter to show that love by leading his church forward in spreading God’s love. After Jesus ascended to heaven, Peter demonstrated his love for Jesus the rest of his life. I look forward to continuing the discussion of how we are called to stay in love with God as the third simple rule for changing the world. Be sure to join us this Sunday.

January 22, 2016

I want to share with you some changes that you will notice this Sunday during worship. After nine years of service, Michele Pruyn has decided to retire from leading our 9:45 Contemporary worship service. Last Sunday was her last Sunday leading at 9:45. I want to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to Michele. Michele is one of the most talented singers and directors I have ever worked with. Our music program is one of the reasons I love being the Senior Pastor at St. Andrew’s- this is because of Michele’s leadership. The thing I love best about working with Michele is how she brings the best out of the people she works with and leads. I am truly excited that Michele will continue leading our Traditional music program and am thankful for all her years of service to Christ and St. Andrew’s! Here’s to many, many more.  Michele will continue to provide excellent direction to our 8:15 and 11:15 Traditional services.  Please make sure to let Michele know how much you love and appreciate her.

 

Michael Mobley will be serving as our Interim Worship Leader for our 9:45 service. I want to take this opportunity to say welcome to Michael . Michael has been working with the student ministry praise band on Sunday nights for two years now. He is a student at USF and is on staff at The Wesley Foundation at USF. Michael plays guitar, piano, and drums and has led worship at the Warren Willis Camp, Seminole Heights UMC, and several other churches. Michael has agreed to serve as the Interim Worship Leader at the 9:45 service as we begin the search for the permanent worship leader. This Sunday will be Michael’s first Sunday. Please make him feel welcome.

 

This Sunday we will continue our series “How to Change the World” by exploring the second simple rule, Do Good! I have a friend who lives in Jacksonville who demonstrated the true meaning of doing good for me. I want to wait to share this story with you on Sunday, but I will tell you it involves his willingness to be selfless and generous. When Jesus told his disciples that anyone who wants to be great must become servant to all, Jesus knew that we would be tempted to want the place of honor. This is why he turned the worldview of his disciples upside down. He told them that even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many. This is the example that Christ gave to us in loving God and living for God.

 

We first have to understand the world we live in and make sure that our life glorifies God. We then need to do everything in our power to do no harm to people in our life, especially brothers and sisters in Christ. This week we will learn the importance of doing good. I look forward to sharing the call to do good with you this week in worship. See you in church.

 

January 15, 2016

 

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it?” Luke 14:28

 

Several years ago my parents took their granddaughters to lunch. It was meant to be a treat and a time to spend some quality time together. They enjoyed a nice meal together and good conversation between them. I believe that my parents even splurged for some dessert, like grandparents do. At the end of the meal the server brought the check and laid it on the table saying, “I will take this when you are ready.” As soon as the server had left one of my daughters looked at my dad and said she wanted to pay the bill. My dad assured her that it was his treat, but she insisted. She got out her little purse and, after rummaging a bit, pulled out two quarters and set them on the table. “There you go! I’ve got this!” she exclaimed.

 

In the above story my daughter had not counted the cost. She did not fully realize, at about 4, what it took to be able to pay the full price of the meal. Her heart was in the right place, but she was unable to pay the cost. I believe that our journey of faith is similar at times. We have the right heart and we set out with good intentions, but we have not counted the cost. Consequently, when the bill arrives we are unable to pay up. An example of this is when there is a brokenness in a relationship. Usually, we enter into relationships with the right heart and intention. We pour ourselves into the relationship desiring for the best. When the other person lets us down or disappoints us we get angry. We desire to offer grace, but we end up offering anger and judgment.

 

Grace is a costly endeavor. When Jesus tells the parable of the tower builder it is in the context of counting the cost of following him as a disciple. Jesus was asking his followers to consider the cost of following him on their life. He tells them, “… none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.” (14:33) There is a cost to following Jesus; it is a costly endeavor. Jesus is telling them to surrender everything they possess. Surrender your family, your house, your job, and your self. This is the most difficult aspect of surrendering to follow Jesus, surrendering your selfish desires.

 

This Sunday we will be talking about the first simple rule, do no harm. The greatest challenge in “do no harm” is surrendering your ego. As author Rueben Job states, “To abandon the way of the world and follow the way of Jesus is a bold move and requires honest, careful, and prayerful consideration.” I hope you will join me as we continue our message series “How to Change the World.” See you in church.

January 8, 2016

 

"My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. 10 And all of them, since they are mine, belong to you; and you have given them back to me, so they are my glory!” John 17:9-10

 

Some things in life are subtle and others are glaring. I was in a store recently that had a sign instructing you how to use their soap dispenser. The sign was very small, blended in with the wall, and was placed under the soap dispenser in such a way that it was nearly impossible to see. It became a little humorous watching person after person try to figure out the soap dispenser, not one of them seeing the sign. I was in another store that has a sign as well, but this one was different. This sign was placed directly above the soap dispenser, was 12 inches high and 12 inches wide, and was bright red. In big letters the sign read, “Use soap and wash your hands!” There was a serious difference in the two signs. One was subtle and appeared to be something we didn’t really need. The second one was glaring and left people a very clear instruction.

 

I feel like this is the world we live in today. There are constant messages being thrown at us all the time. Some are subtle and others are glaring. Students in school receive subtle messages that you have to dress a certain way to fit in. Adults receive subtle messages that they have to drive a certain car to be considered successful. There are thousands more subtle messages we receive every day from the world around us. There are glaring messages as well. The world we live in sends glaring messages that position, fortune, and notoriety are the signs of success. Poverty, homelessness, and struggle are the signs of those to whom success has been elusive. The world bombards us with messages every moment of every day and some are subtle, while others are glaring.

 

That’s what I love about Jesus! In the Scripture passage above, Jesus is very clear. In this prayer to God, the Father, Jesus says, “My prayer is not for the world…” The world are all those who have yet to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus has a different prayer for them. Jesus came to save the world, but here he is focusing on those who believe in him in this prayer. The difference in how Jesus delineates between the world and those whom God has given him is glaring. Jesus prays for those who believe in him saying, “…so they are my glory.” The world are those who do not believe in Jesus and those who believe in Jesus are His glory. Other translations read, “…in them I am glorified.” A big difference indeed.

 

This Sunday I am looking forward to exploring the following question with you, “Is Jesus Christ glorified in me?” as we begin our new message series “How to Change the World”. Be sure to join us this Sunday.

January 1, 2016

 

This Sunday will be the first Sunday of 2016! I hope you are having a Merry Christmas season and a Happy New Year. It is the tradition in the United Methodist Church to participate in a Covenant Renewal Service. We will be sharing in this experience this Sunday.

 

From the very beginning God has entered into covenant with his people. A covenant is a commitment made between two parties. The most popular covenant in our time is a marriage. In marriage one spouse commits to spend their life with the other. There are vows and symbols. I had dreamt about my wedding day long before it happened. I planned, prepared, worked with others to make sure we had everything we needed. And when the day came I was truly ready. I had the perfect dress, the flowers, Kevin had his tux, the church and all three pastors that helped to officiate were all there and ready to go. I can’t imagine showing up unprepared.

 

I encourage you to prepare for Sunday, for making or renewing a covenant with God. In this covenant we are not equal with God, rather we acknowledge our place in God’s kingdom. Below you will find the words to the Wesley Covenant Prayer. I encourage you to read them, pray about them. What parts have been easy this year? What parts are still difficult? How can God increase in your life so that it is possible to live up to your part of the covenant? I am praying for you as we prepare for Sunday together. May God do a mighty work as we renew our commitment to God together.

 

I am no longer my own, but yours.

Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will;

put me to doing, put me to suffering;

let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you,

exalted for you, or brought low for you;

let me be full,

let me be empty,

let me have all things,

let me have nothing:

I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things

to your pleasure and disposal.

And now, glorious and blessed God,

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

you are mine and I am yours. So be it.

And the covenant now made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.

Amen.

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