November 25, 2016

"Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot— yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root." Isaiah 11:1

This Sunday is the first Sunday in the season of Advent. Advent is the time in the Church calendar where all Protestant Christians anticipate anew the coming of the Messiah. It is also the start of the Church year. It is a time of new beginning.

In the Scripture above, Isaiah the prophet tells of a new branch coming out of the stump of Jesse (David's father). This new branch would bring new fruit. The promise of God is that of life and new hope. The long expected Messiah would bring a new reality of how God would interact with creation.

In the season of Advent we anticipate the coming of the Messiah anew. We also should enter into Advent as a season of what new branch God may be bringing forth from our life. What has God been preparing under the surface in our life that will grow into a new branch, bringing with it new fruit. God is always at work and there is always a new branch coming.

Last week Rev. Max Wilkins asked us to consider the question, "What in your life requires Jesus Christ to explain?" Perhaps the new branch that God will grow in your life will be an answer to that question. I believe God has a new branch for St. Andrew's that will bear even more fruit. I cannot wait to see what God will do.

This Sunday, as we start Advent, Bishop Ken Carter will be with us at 9:45 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. to preach about "The Peaceable Kingdom." The Sanctuary will be open for prayer and meditation during the 8:15 hour in lieu of a service. We encourage everyone to attend either 9:45 or 11:15 worship. I hope you will join us for what will certainly be a great message and great worship. I can't wait to see you in church.

November 18, 2016

“Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?”

“I’ve been to London to see the Queen.”

“Pussy cat, pussy cat, what saw you there?”

“I saw a mouse run under the chair!”

Just a silly little meaningless nursery rhyme?

Maybe. But week after week people from all walks of life head to churches all over the world for worship. They do so for a variety of reasons, but deep down inside every one of them is hoping, sometimes hoping against hope, to catch a glimpse of the King. Not just any king, but the King of Kings. Of course, if you listen to what people say, many come looking for the King but end up seeing only the most mundane things. They see someone who disappoints them, or a flaw in the carpet, or a guitar where they wanted an organ, or a puddle in the parking lot. Granted, some see the King, because the King is there and He wants to be seen. Sadly many times people miss Him.

I think that old nursery rhyme may be more profound than we first think. What keeps the pussycat from catching a glimpse of the regal splendor of the royal court? There are a multitude of possible reasons, but at least two that the rhyme brings forth. First, the pussycat’s gaze was too low. After all, the Queen wasn’t likely to be running along the floor, under the chairs. So why was the pussycat focused there? Second, the pussycat was too distracted by physical appetites to experience the glory. With his thoughts on the lunch, he missed the majesty!

I wonder how many times we are like the pussycat.

Jesus said "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” (Matthew 6:22). Among other things, I believe Jesus is saying the focus of our gaze determines the state of our souls. If our gaze is focused on the light, our souls will likewise be filled with light. If we focus on the darkness, on that which is broken or evil, we find our very souls filled with darkness. Often a key to seeing the Glory of the Kingdom is simply to lift up our gaze.

The Prophet Isaiah says that in the year King Uziah died, he saw the Lord. (Isaiah 6) Because he was looking for the Lord, he saw Him. After all, the Lord says if we seek Him, we will find Him … if we seek Him with all of our hearts. While others might have been tempted to panic or despair over the loss of the great King Uziah, Isaiah had the focus of his gaze on the Lord, and he saw the Glory. He also heard the angels proclaiming “Heaven and earth are full of Your Glory!” This proclamation suggests that there is no place so distant, no circumstance so dark, and no challenge so great, that the Glory of the Lord is absent. He is with us all the time and His Glory is there for those who will lift their gaze and see with Kingdom eyes.

Of course it is also easy to get distracted by a multitude of lesser appetites. Perhaps that is why Jesus goes on to say, “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33). If we seek the Kingdom, we will find it. If we seek His Glory we will see it. And in finding His Kingdom and seeing His Glory, we discover that we can find resolution to the other things that bring stress and anxiety to our lives.

I believe the church today has far too many “pussycat” Christians; people who, while ostensibly seeking the King and His Kingdom, are often easily distracted by lesser things. I’m going to resolve to lift up my gaze, to look for His Glory, and to seek first His Kingdom. I don’t want to discover that my journey to the throne room of the King only resulted in me seeing a mouse run under a chair.

For more blog posts by Rev. Max Wilkins, click HERE.

November 11, 2016

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV)

These verses from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth are a favorite to be read at weddings. It is a reminder of the type of selfless love that should be shared by two human beings. But, these verses are so much more. Within these five verses of Scripture is the embodiment of the character of God. John tells us God is love and Paul tells us what God, love, looks like. If we want to know the character of God we need to look for this kind of selfless, self-giving love.

What does this means for us today? If these verses embody the character of God and we are born in the image and likeness of God, then we are to embody this type of love. We are to be patient when our patience is tested. We are to be kind when we are tempted to be unkind. We are to be content, humble, hospitable, selfless, and measured in our anger. We are to let things go and forgive generously, run from evil and celebrate the truth wherever we see it. Because we are children of God we are to protect when protection is needed, trust when trust seems unwarranted, hope in the midst of hopeless times, and persevere through all circumstances we face.

The last quality of love Paul mentions is that love never fails. Paul tells us that he believes he, and we, should love with all of these qualities because they are the very qualities of God’s love for us. He finishes this by telling the reader that if he lives by all of these qualities it will never fail. Another way of putting this is love is foolproof, guaranteed. Love will never let you down, fall short, go part way, or disappoint. LOVE NEVER FAILS!

It is my prayer, especially in these times, we will be people of love. Living out the very love that God has displayed to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. Love is needed in all of society now more than ever. I am not talking about the love that the world tells us to give, but the love that Paul describes in these five verses. May we be people who love like this. May we be people who fulfill Jesus’ command to love one another. May the world know that we are followers of Jesus Christ because of the love we live. If we are those people today, this week, and all the time…it will never fail.

This Sunday we continue our 50th Anniversary Celebration. Rev. Dr. Bob Gibbs will be with us to preach about sacred places. Next weekend we will conclude the celebration with a banquet and worship on the 18th, worship on the 19th, and one worship service on November 20th. The president of The Mission Society, Rev. Max Wilkins, will be preaching all services on the final weekend. This is an exciting time to be a part of what God is doing at St. Andrew’s. I can’t wait to see you in church!

November 4, 2016

When I served at First Mount Dora, there was a woman in the congregation, Wendy, who was an amazing supporter of the gospel- particularly among those who did not even believe in God. She would make connections between the behaviors they exhibited and the gospel, helping them see that their ability to act in those ways actually originated with God. She was patiently and persistently allowing God to use her to move an atheist woman from hostility toward the gospel, to a willingness to listen to stories about God working in the world, to directly asking questions about Jesus and the gospel, all in the context of a growing friendship formed around work for the local school that both their teenage boys attended. She is an example to me of meeting people where they are but asking God for grace not to let them remain separate from him.

Somewhere on our faith journeys, most Christians experience the encouragement and guidance of one or more other Christians who pray for and with us, who help us persevere, and who challenge us to live into the fullness of the Christian life- loving God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and our neighbors as ourselves. Living together in grace, we find a way to persevere even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. The Apostle Paul was that kind of person for every church God started through him. Sometimes he was stern, as in Galatians, sometimes loving and affirming, as in Philippians, but every time, he prayed for them and reminded them that they were partners in contending for the gospel.

I look forward to being with you this Sunday to consider what Paul's words to the Philippians have to say to us today. Happy 50th Birthday, St. Andrew's!

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

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