February 24, 2017

Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.” Matthew 18:19-20 CEB

It seemed like a normal Tuesday filled with meetings and planning. The morning was going along as planned and anticipated. There was an appointment that was coming at noon that I really was looking forward to. As the time approached I got in the car and headed across town to the meeting place we had agreed upon. As I got closer I truly found myself looking forward to being there. I was looking forward to the people I would be with, the conversation we would have, and the time we would spend together. As I arrived and headed into the restaurant I reflected on why I was looking forward to this time. It was a time to meet with my brothers in Christ. Men who I have journeyed with, many for a very long time. The meeting was with my clergy covenant group and I looked forward to meeting with my fellow pastors who have been supporting me and I them.

I was struck by the importance of this particular day and why I was looking forward to it so much. Then the verse for this week rang through my mind, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I’m there with them.” I was excited about being with my covenant brothers because of this promise. We would have a sense of comradery, fellowship, worship, and God’s presence (even at the Top Golf restaurant). Nobody can relate to what it means to be a pastor like another pastor. I was looking forward to being in the very presence of God with these men as we discussed what God was doing in our life and ministry. I love being with these men and I love the promise of “I’m there!”

I believe it is the same whenever two or three or more disciples of Jesus Christ gather in Christ’s name. God is there. What a powerful picture that is! Believers gathering together in Jesus’ name and the Savior is right there with them. This, in fact, is the power of Life Groups. We gather together in Jesus’ name for many different reasons; bible study, prayer, fun, running, kayaking, quilting, and so many other reasons. No matter the reason, when we gather in Jesus’ name the promise is “I’m there!” Just the act of gathering in his name is an act of worship. We are stating in whose name we are gathering and everything about that gathering is for God’s glory. There is power in that.

This passage gained new meaning for me in 2014 in Zambia. Two of the pastors from the US and all of the pastors from Zambia closed every prayer with the phrase, “In the name of Jesus.” I asked why they said this and why every time. Their answer was, in part, this passage of Scripture. There are many times in The Gospels where Jesus says if you do something in his name it will be accomplished. The truth is there is power in the name of Jesus. Philippians 2 says that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. There is true power in the name of Jesus when three or more are gathered in Jesus’ name.

The challenge for all of us is to do everything we do in the name of Jesus. This is especially true of Life Groups gathering in the name of Jesus. When we gather together as a Life Group we worship because the presence of Christ himself is there with us. We all need to live into this reality in our life. The power of followers of Jesus Christ centering their lives on loving God and loving neighbor in groups of two or more gathering in the name of Jesus.

This Sunday we will conclude the message series Life Groups. I will be discussing more about why we all need a Life Group and how important it is to gather together in the name of Jesus. I look forward to sharing this with you Sunday. It’s an exciting time to be a part of St. Andrew’s. The best is yet to come. I can’t wait to see you in church!

February 17, 2017

“Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.” Philippians 2:2 NLT

As I drive around the county and state I marvel at the amount of construction that seems to always be going on. I don’t marvel because it is ongoing, I do so because I have always been amazed at the coordination it takes to accomplish road work. There are sometimes hundreds of people working on the same project widening a road or adding an entirely new road. The work stretches over many miles with many different segments of the project happening at once. The fact that it all comes together when the project is finished amazes me. All of the pieces came together and the finished product works. That is quite an accomplishment.

Have you ever thought of the church in this way? There are many different parts involved in being an effective church. The church needs to be able to equip and empower its members to do ministry. The church needs to invite and engage guests to be a part of the overall mission. The church needs to raise up children and students in the faith. The church needs to lead everyone to experience God’s grace through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. The work of the church has many segments all happening at once. When it all comes together and the church is fulfilling God’s mission there is nothing like it in all the world.

This is one of the reasons we are putting a renewed emphasis on Life Groups. When people are serving together through their Life Groups some amazing stuff happens. Throughout the life of St. Andrew’s this has been the case. There have been groups of people who served on mission trips for building houses, disaster relief, and assisting our mission partners in the local communities we serve. Within the church we have had Life Groups serve at events like Trunk or Treat, Pumpkin Patch, VBS, Dover Elementary, and so much more. A Life Group serving together is an awesome way for the group to connect in Christian community and build the kingdom of God here on earth.

Paul wrote in the second chapter of Philippians that to be like Christ is to agree with each other wholeheartedly, love one another, and work together with one mind and purpose. It is our prayer that our church and, especially, our Life Groups will do just this. The more we join together in a spirit of unity to serve each other and the community, the more we resemble Christ. I pray that you will be considering joining a Life Group, if you are not already a part of one. I pray that we will all find ways of working together through our Life Groups to serve. Serving together creates Christian community.

This Sunday we will continue the message series Life Groups. I will be discussing more about why we all need a Life Group and how important it is to serve together. I look forward to sharing this with you Sunday. It’s an exciting time to be a part of St. Andrew’s. The best is yet to come. I can’t wait to see you in church!

February 10, 2017

"Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness." [Colossians 2:7]

In the Old Testament there is a story where God calls Gideon to do something pretty unreal. Gideon is going into battle against the enemy and God tells him he has too many soldiers. At first Gideon had almost 32,000 warriors prepared to go to battle. Gideon heard God's re proof and allowed anyone who wanted to leave to do so. 22,000 men went home leaving around 10,000 warriors.  God told Gideon it was still too many. Finally, Gideon got the number from 32,000 to 300 and God told him this was the right number of warriors. God did this so that when the Israelites were successful it would be obvious that God had helped them win the battle.

The number 300 is still a fairly large group of people. However, it is exponentially smaller than 32,000. What God was telling Gideon is the smaller the number the more he would need to rely on and focus on God. As we continue to explore the importance of Life Groups, I believe this is a lesson that still applies. We may not be going to battle with an enemy, but we are fighting our way through the ups and downs of life. We believe Life Groups are the best environment for Christian growth and fellowship. In a church the size of St. Andrew's we must reduce the number of people to a much smaller number in order to experience true Christian community. A Life Group suggests 6-8 people who are willing to go through all of life's ups and downs with you. Life Groups offer Gideon size support through the battles of life.

In the verse above from Colossians God says that one of the results of your small band of supporters will be an overflow of gratitude in your life. Through Life Groups we grow stronger in the truth of our faith. Because of the love, support, encouragement, and accountability of our Life Group members we become increasingly grateful for the way God works in our life through them. We see God in them and grow in our faith with them.

I experienced this growth in overflowing gratitude this week. My mom had surgery yesterday. Our family was all there to support her through a very difficult time for her. In the waiting room while she was I surgery members of her Life Group came to support her by being there for my dad. They surrounded him and loved him and let him know they were in the fight with him. My dad, and family, were overflowing with gratitude for these folks who are connected with my parents in Christian community through their Life Group. We grow closer to Christ when we are surrounded by fellow believers.

I look forward to continuing the discussion with you this Sunday. I love being your pastor and I can't wait to see you in church.

February 3, 2017

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but to encourage one another.” [Hebrews 10:23-25a]

It all started with a t-shirt. My husband and I, then in our mid-20s, were walking out of the sanctuary one Sunday morning and noticed that a man ahead of us was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a Virginia Tech logo. The man was also in his 20s, a rare sight enough in church; but, the logo on the shirt from my husband’s university gave us the nudge to talk to the man. What started as a conversation on the lawn at church quickly morphed into a lunch invitation, and then gathering to watch Hokie sports. Within a couple of weeks, we and our new best friend were having lunch together after church most Sundays and, as we were standing talking on the lawn one Sunday, we saw another couple in their 20s, so we invited them to join us at lunch. We all started attending a weekly evening Bible study together at the church, and then going out to dinner together afterwards. Soon, a woman in her 20s showed up at church and we invited her to join us, and then her husband joined us once he was back in town from a business trip. Finally, another man in his 20s joined us; he was often in town on business for a few weeks at a time, away from his young family and was glad to have a community away from home. This small group of eight people became our dearest friends, closest confidants, dedicated prayer partners, and boy, did we have a lot of laughs. And food. A LOT of food.

I have such tender memories of this time with our small group in our early marriage. We navigated so many big life events, difficult trials, and significant transitions together. We felt so known and loved and supported by these friends. We are spread all over the country now, but the women, especially, still keep in touch. I can pick up the phone and call the ladies and no time has passed. We share such a deep understanding because of our shared history; but, more than that, we share deep understanding because we recognize that we are all part of the same Big Story. The story of a God who loved his people so much that he didn’t leave us to figure out how to follow enough rules to reconcile ourselves to himself. Instead, God sent his Son, Jesus, to live among us, in community, to set an example of how we should minister to one another. God loved – and loves! – us so much that he sent his Son to rescue us, not to condemn us. Jesus didn’t leave us alone, either: he sent his Holy Spirit to be with us to move among us and unite us in community, to keep us living out God’s kingdom, here on Earth. In community we support and encourage each other, and we keep each other accountable to our shared story: that we are beloved people, rescued and redeemed, and out of our deep gratitude we serve, we learn, and we ever seek a closer relationship with our Savior.

Come continue this conversation about community with me this Sunday in worship. 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.