December 30, 2016

“What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

I love the reality of a New Year beginning. It is the time when one year has finished and put in the books. You can close the door on the old year and swing wide the door of the New Year and the clean slate that it represents. The fears and failures of the old year make way to the hopes and dreams of the New Year. I truly love the New Year coming and all the opportunities and possibilities it brings. I hope that you are able to look at the New Year with hope and promise.

The start of a New Year always reminds me of the words The Apostle Paul wrote in his second letter to the church at Corinth. He told them that everything that Christ had done for them means that they have a new beginning. They are absolutely not the same anymore. Their new life has begun. What an awesome reality in our faith life. When we receive God’s gift of grace by placing faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of our life, we are made new. The old is gone, G-O-N-E, and we are made new.

I have shared that this Scripture absolutely is what happened to me. I was made new. It wasn’t just that some of my behaviors changed, I changed. I was a new person with a new outlook and a new heart. My new life meant that I saw people differently and treated people differently. I was able to see people the way Jesus saw them. That new life has been growing and evolving and maturing for over 30 years now. What a life it has been.

I believe that when we place our faith in Jesus Christ that we are made new, or at least renewed, daily. It is a choice we make every single day to follow Jesus. When we confess our sins and follow Jesus fully, our sins are forgiven and we are made new. It is not necessary to our salvation to have a conversion experience over and over again. However, we can be made new by the confessing of our sins daily. God is faithful to forgive our sins when we confess them. This is a constant renewal and restoration process. New life comes and we are able to live in the new life Christ gives us.

In the New Year as you make your resolutions I want to encourage you to commit to daily renewal time. Commit to every morning confessing the sins of the previous day, recommitting your life to Christ, and living for Christ fully. I believe that if we will all do this every day we will experience the hope and promise of new life every day. We will be new people living fully for Christ 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. Let’s see what that does to our life, our family, our church, and our community. Let the new begin every day in the New Year.

This Sunday we will have ONE service at 10:00AM. Susan Lewis will deliver the message Why Our Resolutions Never Stick from Colossians 3:1-17. I can’t wait to hear what Sue has to say about this and I hope you will be there too. I wish you all a blessed New Year. This is an exciting time of new beginnings at St. Andrew’s. I can’t wait to see you in church!

December 23, 2016

"Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors." Luke 2:14 (NLT)

While in the airport waiting for our flight home from New York our family had a celebrity sighting. We were sitting in the area at the gate waiting for boarding to begin when a crowd of people headed toward us. There were people surrounding a young couple who were walking very fast, as if to try and outpace the crowd. As the crowd came closer we were able to make out who the couple was. It was wrestler and actor John Cena and his girlfriend. People were going crazy trying to see them and potentially talk to them and get their autograph. It was a pretty wild scene in the airport and all because of a person who has been on television.

Now before I get too spiritual on you…I can understand why people would get excited about seeing a celebrity. I have been excited to see certain famous people in my life as well. After all, we watch them in the public eye, on the big screen, on television shows and we enjoy their work. We may even develop a certain attachment to them because of who we perceive them to be. We might think they are a good person who is generous and kind, funny and likable. It is admittedly pretty cool to meet someone who is famous and talented. So I am not saying there is anything wrong with the scene we experienced in the airport. What we soon found out is that John Cena and his girlfriends were on the same flight to Tampa that we were on. So the buzz continued for the duration of the flight until we all went our separate ways after landing in Tampa.

This story came to mind as I was envisioning the night Christ was born. Stay with me here. There were shepherds out in the fields watching over their flocks in the still of the night. There were people getting ready for bed, or already asleep, at the inn in Bethlehem. There was an inn keeper who was closing the books on a good night, all of his rooms were taken. It was a sleepy night with all the normalcy of a fairly typical night in and around Bethlehem. Nothing very out of the ordinary at all.

It was into this scene that Mary and Joseph came. It was into this scene that everything was turned upside down. It was into this scene that an angel spoke to unexpecting shepherds and choirs of angels sang. It was into this scene that the inn keeper offered unconventional lodging to a young and weary couple. It was into this scene that those sleeping in their comfortable rooms were awoken by the sounds of childbirth in the stable. It was into this scene that God’s Son was born and changed everything. It was into this scene that the shepherds left their flocks and came to see the one who would save them.

This is the scene where all came to see the newborn Jesus. The glory of the Lord was present and peace came on earth. There was a divine celebrity in their midst and a crowd began to form for sure. This divine celebrity is the only one worthy of a crowd and commotion. Jesus is the one who deserves all honor, glory, and praise. The One who came to bring us peace is also the one who deserves our praises. It is my prayer that this Christmas you will experience both the glory of God and the peace Christ alone can bring to your life. May you have a divine celebrity sighting in your life this Christmas in the person of Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and we will celebrate the birth of Christ together at our 4:30 Family Service; our 6:30 Contemporary Service; our 8:30 Traditional Service with orchestra and choir; and our 11:00 Traditional Service with choir, hand bells, and communion. These are perfect opportunities to invite family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers to experience the love of Christ through worship. Please remember that on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day we will have one service at 10:00AM.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year. This is an exciting time of anticipation at St. Andrew’s. I can’t wait to see you in church!

December 16, 2016

We invite you to experience hope, peace, joy and love with us as we celebrate the birth of Christ. Join us for the Christmas Cantata this Sunday (Dec. 18), Caroling in the Courtyard on Wednesday, December 21, our Christmas Eve Services on December 24 and our Christmas Day Service at 10 a.m. on December 25. This is the perfect opportunity to invite your friends and family- we can't wait to celebrate together!

December 9, 2016

“The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.”

John 1:9 (NLT)

Do you remember when it was popular for businesses to use the giant search lights to advertise at night? From miles around you could see the moving beams of the search lights cutting through the darkness of the night sky. If you were curious you would follow the beams of light to their origin to find out about the big deal. The lights were so bright that the closer you got to the lights the bigger and brighter the light became. It was truly impressive to see the power of those giant search lights lighting up the sky.

Light has a way of doing that, cutting through the darkness. There is a huge difference between camping in the wilderness on an overcast night and a clear moonlit night. The moon lights up the sky enough to allow you to see thing pretty clearly. I know that if I have to go out in the backyard on a dark overcast night I must have a flashlight. It’s even a little unnerving to walk the grounds of the church at night after all the lights have gone out. You never know what is there since it is hard to see in the dark. We are better able to see in the light of day or a moonlit light. Light exposes what darkness conceals.

In the years before the birth of Christ the world was a place of spiritual darkness. God never left and was still active, but it was a time of no prophets and no direct interaction by God with the people of God. This darkness left them crying out for Messiah, a Savior, to rescue them and restore them to God’s favor. Even though they were crying out and seeking this answer from God it was a silent and dark time for them. The answer had not come.

When John writes his gospel he begins by telling of how God broke into the darkness. He tells of the light that shines in the darkness. A light that darkness cannot extinguish. A light that shines eternally because it is the true light from God. John says this “true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” The long anticipation was about to be over and the Messiah would be born. The light would save those who placed their trust in the Light. Jesus would later say, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

This Sunday is the third week of Advent. We will talk about what it means to walk as a child of the light. We will explore what it takes to walk life’s pathways illuminated by the one true light. We will discuss together the power of the one true light that reveals the way to abundant life. I pray that you will experience the light of the world this week and all through Advent and Christmas. This is an exciting time of anticipation at St. Andrew’s. I can’t wait to see you in church!

December 2, 2016

“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).” Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)

I grew up in a home where we used mostly name brand products. Crest tooth paste, JIF peanut butter, and Oreo cookies. There were generic versions of these products, as well as other competitor’s similar products, but we always bought name brand. Whenever we went on vacation as a family we would ALWAYS stay at a Holiday Inn, because back then it was reliable and clean. As an adult I have carried on with some of the name brand training I received. Some of the names are different, but I still prefer a name brand over a generic product.

When Debbie and I were first dating I learned a term that the pharmaceutical companies worked to get their doctors to use. The term was “medically necessary” and was written on a prescription so that the pharmacist would not fill the prescription with a generic drug. The doctor was indicating that the brand name drug was "medically necessary" for their patient. So what is it about a brand name? I believe with my parents, with me as an adult, and with doctors (in some cases) the name brand yields a level of trust. You can trust (in theory) that the brand name will deliver a better quality and more consistent experience. It is a name you can trust.

I wonder if that is why God gave the prophecy of what his Son would be called. The prophecy said that the virgin would give birth to a son and he will be called Immanuel. This is God’s chosen name for the One who would save the world. In the Bible there are several names given for the One who would save all of humanity. The one we draw out most often during Advent is Immanuel – which means God with us. The reason this name, actually more of a title, is so important during Advent is because of the promise it offers. God with us! When we hear the title Immanuel used for the long expected Jesus during Advent we should be amazed.

Think of all the times in the Old Testament where God is with us. A voice in a dream, a burning bush, a pillar of cloud and fire … the list goes on. In the prophecy of Isaiah and the angel in Matthew the promise is that God would be with us very differently. In human form, a little baby. That was an amazing new reality. This is one of the reasons I love The Gospel of John and the fact that the Word became flesh – God with us! So when we sing Emmanuel this week in worship it should bring a smile to our face. The anticipation of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us should be more than we can possibly contain. There truly is something in a name … and he will be called Immanuel, which means God with us.

This Sunday is the second week of Advent. I pray that you will experience God with us at either the 8:15, NINE45, or 11:15 service. This is an exciting time of anticipation at St. Andrew’s. I can’t wait to 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.