April 27, 2018

"For they look, but they don't really see. They hear, but they don't really listen or understand." Matthew 13:13 (NLT)

There is a video that has gone around for quite a while now that shows the difference between watching something and really seeing it. There is a group of people passing a basketball in a circle. Half of the people are wearing black and half white. The viewer is asked to count how many times the people in white shirts pass the basketball. After you have watched and counted they ask a simple question, "Did you see the gorilla?" After the first time I watched the video I honestly did not know why they were asking. After watching the video again, without counting, about halfway through the video a person in a gorilla suit walks right through the middle of the circle. The first time I watched the video I never even saw the gorilla. The second time I saw it clearly. The test is called a selective attention test.

The difference in the two viewings of this video is attention and awareness. The first time you are selectively watching the people in the white shirts and really see nothing else—not even a gorilla. The second time you are aware that there is a gorilla in the video and you cannot miss it. When you are aware of the presence of something it is obvious, but when you are unaware you can miss it. It's a little like the phenomenon of buying a new car. Before you buy a certain kind of car you may notice that make or model occasionally. Somehow after purchasing that make and model you suddenly see them everywhere.

Jesus is telling his disciples something a little similar to this. Jesus tells them they can hear and understand the parables because they are really seeing, hearing, and listening. There were plenty of people who saw Jesus, but did not really see him for who he was. There were plenty of people who heard Jesus, but did not really listen to him. In our faith life we are to selectively give our attention to God. We are to really look for where God is at work and really see God's hand moving. We are to really listen for what God is saying to us and truly hear God. It is only when we intentionally put ourselves to being aware of what God is doing that we will see, hear, and understand God's work in our life.

It is like this when we cultivate communication with God and our human relationships, especially marriage. The more aware and present we are the more we cultivate communication. We really hear each other and really understand what is being communicated. This weekend I am so excited to have my wife join me in preaching a message about cultivating communication. You won’t want to miss this opportunity to hear from my better half. We are very much looking forward to sharing with you.

We all need to make ourselves aware of what God is doing in our midst. We all need to cultivate communication with God, our spouse, our kids/family, and our friends. As Jesus told his disciples later, "Blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear." (Matthew 13:16) May you be blessed this week as you cultivate communication in your marriage. There are a lot of great things happening at St. Andrew’s and the best is yet to come. I can’t wait to see you in church.

April 20, 2018

“Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity.” Acts 2:46 CEB

The professor was teaching art appreciation at the college level. She was working to inspire students to appreciate the various paintings and sculptures throughout history. Some were very beautiful and very interesting. Some didn’t really catch the attention of the students at all—I know because I was one of them. The most interesting part of the whole class was the professor’s project. She was a photographer and had been working on a project centered around meals. She had been taking photographs of tables following the meal in which she had partaken. As a student I found value in appreciating all the art about which we learned. However, I was intrigued with the professor’s work and it still sits with me to this day. As someone who is pretty social, I love sharing meals with people and discussing life around the table. The aftermath of the meal was a wonderful idea to me and a great way to express some of what took place at the table. In most of our meals, a lot takes place at the table.

In the second chapter of The Book of Acts there is a description of the early church. I love this part of Scripture and the picture it paints. Whenever I read this description of the early church I think of the way they did life together. They spent a lot of time together. They learned together, went to church together, and shared their meals together. They were in each other’s homes and shared food with gladness and simplicity. Can you imagine the stories they shared around the table? I am certain there would have been stories about what Jesus did, stories about what the Apostles were doing, and stories of all those who were coming to faith. The meals had more to do with faith than food. The time together was deepening their faith. These meetings and meals were growing the church. I am sure there was a lot of laughter and celebration. These meals were vitally important to the growth of a movement, a community, and the Church.

The most important aspect of the meals the early church shared was time. Time is perhaps a person’s most important commodity. In life you get so many hours to make an impact. It is important to spend our time well. Acts 2 teaches us that it is important to be intentional with our time. Spending time together with people who are most important in our life will make an impact. Spending time together impacts our relationship with God, each other, and the community. This is true especially when we are spending time together to intentionally do God’s work and will. The question every believer needs to ask is, “Am I spending time together with people to grow the church?” The purpose of Acts 2 was to show how the church was growing rapidly because of the focused and intentional actions of the first disciples. Spending time together is vitally important.

In the same way, spending time together in our marriage relationship (and all relationships) is vitally important. By spending time together, we grow in our understanding of each other, we grow in our faith with each other, and we find our common purpose. Spending time together in marriage helps us appreciate each other and be more intentional with our life together. Some of the most significant conversations in our marriage have taken place at the dinner table over a shared meal. We cannot overestimate the importance of spending time together building our relationship. Spending time together every day is vital to our marriages. May you find time today to spend together building your marriage. If you are not married, may you find time building your relationships with friends and family.

This Sunday we continue the message series Building A Better Marriage. We will discuss what it means to build a better marriage by spending time together. If you’re single, I promise that you will be able to apply the principles we will discuss to your life. I hope you will join us. The best is yet to come at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!

April 13, 2018

“6 We have different gifts that are consistent with God’s grace that has been given to us ...” 

Romans 12:6a CEB

Over the years I have watched them come to terms with an ever-present reality—different. One loves school, history, museums and music. One loves friends, laughter, learning new things and working with kids. They both like family, animals, movies, adventure and Netflix. There are similarities AND there are differences. The two people I am talking about are definitely different. They are also siblings and those differences can drive them crazy. At its best, the differences make their relationship great. As my daughters become young women, I see them growing into and appreciating those differences. These two young women are fearfully and wonderfully made with gifts and talents consistent with God’s grace that has been given to them.

Different can be wonderful and different can be exhausting. We are all different. We are all unique. This is God’s intent for all of us. If we were the same and all acted, thought, spoke, believed the same, the world would be boring—almost unbearable. If everyone was like me there would be a lot of big visions and people would be excited about them, but not a lot of them would be accomplished. In the life of the church I strive to surround myself with staff and leaders who are different than me. I see how things can be and should be, but I need people who see the process by which we can get there. The bottom line is we need each other because we are different.

One of the most memorable staff experiences of my life happened at a staff retreat years ago. We had taken a personality type indicator test prior to the retreat. The leader had split us up into teams based on our scoring. Everyone on your team scored the same as you. We were then asked to plan a dream trip. Money was no option and we could go wherever we wanted to go. My group was full of dreamers and big picture people. We planned an amazing 14-day trip through Europe and the Mediterranean. It was truly awesome and packed with incredible experiences. When the plan was all put together we were to share with the other group. The other group was filled with very process and detail-oriented people. We shared our trip and sat back and smiled—because we knew it was amazing. The other group just sat there, wheels spinning, and did not respond at all. When the leader asked what they thought, their response was “Is any of that possible?” You see, we hadn’t checked to see if any airlines flew to any of the cities we had chosen or if the cruise lines sailed to any of the ports we scheduled. We had all kinds of experiences planned, but little to no detail of how they would be accomplished. We needed to have the other group involved in the planning and, quite honestly, they needed us involved in theirs. Their plan was boring. We are different AND we need each other.

It is no different in the church. We all have different gifts and talents given to us according to God’s grace. God made us different for a reason … we are better together. We need each other. Some people are gifted to be in front of people, some are gifted to work behind the scenes, others are gifted teachers, and the list goes on. The Apostle Paul tells the church in Rome that this is what makes the church, the body of Christ, complete. Without any one part the church is incomplete and does not function the way Christ intends. This is why we should celebrate our differences—they are God’s plan for us. God created us different. When we celebrate those differences we complement each other, and we are the church.

This Sunday we continue the message series Building A Better Marriage. We will discuss what it means to build a better marriage by celebrating differences. If you’re single, I promise you that you will be able to apply the principles we will discuss to your life. I hope you will join us. The best is yet to come at St. Andrew’s. I can’t wait to see you in church!

April 6, 2018

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence.”  Proverbs 3:5 CEB

It was a great spot to be with a view that would rival most. It took some effort to get there and not everyone was willing to put in the effort. You had to navigate several obstacles and make your way up a tenuous route. Once you reached the top you were treated to a private hideaway that was almost guaranteed to be yours alone. I was only 10 years old when I would climb the big maple tree to the top and enjoy that view. None of the adults would try to climb the tree and none of my cousins would try it either. So, the top of that tree became my personal hideaway about 30 feet in the air. It was a lot of fun, but as I look back on this experience as a parent I have questions. The first question is what were my parents and grandparents thinking? How could they let me get so high in that tree? The only answer I can come to is trust. They trusted me to know how high I could go and to be careful. If they hadn’t trusted me I would not have experienced such an awesome climb and hideaway.

My parents may have trusted me, but I was trusting something else, the tree. I knew I could go high into the tree because its branches were strong. I could trust the tree because the branches had grown in such a way that I would have a clear path to climb. I trusted the tree because I had climbed it dozens of times. Trust is the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something. I had the assured reliance that the tree was strong based on past experience. I had the assured reliance that I could climb the tree safely because I had done it before. Trust is a matter of perspective. At the time my perspective was very trusting because there had been no reason not to trust. There is no way I would climb that same tree today. My body structure is very different than when I was eight. I also have had the experience of falling out of a tree when I was in my late twenties. That didn’t feel good and could have been devastating. My perspective has changed and my trust in my own ability to climb a tree has changed.

Trust is also foundational to experiencing success in life. This is at the heart of the verse above. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; don’t rely on your own intelligence.” Let’s look first at the second half of this verse. “Don’t rely on your own intelligence,” or in other translations “lean not on your own understanding” seems clear. Solomon, the principle author of Proverbs, has been widely regarded as one of the wisest people to ever live. He receives this distinction because when he was given the opportunity to ask God for anything, he asked for wisdom. If the wisest king and one of the wisest people to ever live offers the advice to not rely on your own intelligence, we should listen. We may think we are smart, but we just aren’t that smart. We are prone to make mistakes in life. Also, when it comes to our spiritual life we are, as the old hymn says, prone to wander. Which takes us back to the first part of the verse, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” This is such great advice because of who God is. We can trust who God is. We have the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, and truth of who God is. God has proven to be trustworthy for all human history. Trusting God is foundational to success in life.

So, when it comes to our relationships, particularly marriage, trust in God is foundational. I will go as far as to say it is crucial. I believe that no Christian will ever be successful in their marriage relationship without trusting God for the outcome. This is true in life, in relationships, and especially in the marriage relationship. Try and think of it in terms of your marriage relationship being like climbing a ladder. We all know how to climb a ladder. Regardless of your physical condition everyone knows how to climb a ladder. But the knowledge of how to climb a ladder and the ability to climb the ladder are not the most important thing about the effectiveness of a ladder. The most important thing about the effectiveness of a ladder is where you lean your ladder. If you need to paint your house, but you lean the ladder against your neighbor’s house you won’t be successful. However, if you lean the full weight of the ladder against your house you will be successful. This is what Solomon is telling us … we must lean the full weight of our ladder (trust) on God. Trust in God is foundational. Trusting God strengthens our life, our relationships, our marriages. Trust in the Lord with all your heart.

This Sunday we begin a new message series Building A Better Marriage. We will explore what it means to build a better marriage by focusing on the foundation, celebrating differences, spending time together, and cultivating communication. If you’re not married, you may be wondering why you should come. I promise you that, while we will be talking about marriage, you will be able to apply the principles we will discuss to any relationship or to life in general. I hope you will join us. The best is yet to come at St. Andrew’s. I can’t wait to see you in church.

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Pastor Tim Machtel