June 29, 2018

"I charge you before God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels to follow these principles without bias, and without playing favorites.” 1 Timothy 5:21 CEB

You’ve probably seen the scenario in movies or on television. Teams are being selected for a pick-up game (any sport really) and it is a painstaking process. The obviously gifted athletes are chosen first, then the best friends, then those who look like they may have potential, until the last person is standing all alone, unpicked. This is the time when the captain who is left with the final pick says, “Okay, you can be on the team too!” The person who is chosen first is always going to feel like they are special. The person chosen last is going to feel like—well—a loser. Those who are chosen toward the middle of the pack are, quite possibly, relieved they were not the last one chosen for the team. Have you ever been a part of those being chosen for a team in this manner? Where were you chosen? How did you feel about when you were chosen?

There are many ways this scene can be interpreted. It could be interpreted in terms of wisdom and the captain must choose wisely to win the game. We could interpret the scene in terms of how the captain handles his friends. Of course, we also may interpret it in terms of the ones being selected. At its core the scene has to do with the concept of favoritism. It’s fair to say that we all have played favorites at some point in our life. We have favorite foods, favorite music, favorite movies, favorite television shows, favorite sports teams, and the list goes on and on. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having favorites when it comes to these things. There is a problem when we play favorites in relationships.

Paul tells Timothy to follow the principles he has been taught “without bias and without playing favorites.” The Apostle Paul is really saying two things. First, follow ALL the principles, not just part of them (or your favorites). Second, don’t show special favor toward any one person. Timothy is to follow all the principles he has been taught and not pick and choose. Timothy also is to treat everyone equally. It really doesn’t matter who it is, the principles of the Gospel apply to everyone equally. When it comes to our relationships everyone should be treated equally in terms of our faith. Paul does say that the elders and leaders (including Timothy) are to take these things very seriously. This doesn’t mean, however, that everyone else can pick and choose what they follow. It doesn’t mean that we can treat some people with love and respect, according to the teachings of Jesus, and other people poorly. We need to apply the teachings of Jesus equally to everyone.

I know what some people are thinking—should I treat my wife the same as I treat the server at the restaurant? Yes! We should treat everyone equally when it comes to our faith. Your relationship is different with your spouse than a server or a coworker or even a friend. One thing is held in common in all our relationships—the way we live out the Gospel. We all live out our faith without partiality according to the teachings of Jesus (and of Paul). The role we play in each relationship will be different, but the way we live out our faith in each is the same. We are to love everyone without playing favorites. Remember the words of Jesus Christ when he told his followers to love even your enemies (Matthew 5:44). We are to show everyone the same love that Jesus has shown us.

Will you live out your faith today without playing favorites?

This Sunday we continue the message series entitled Influence: A Study of 1 Timothy. We will discuss the influence of relationships. I hope you will join us this week and every week as we dive into God’s Word. The best is yet to come at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!

June 22, 2018

"Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young. Instead, set an example for the believers through your speech, behavior, love, faith, and by being sexually pure.”

1 Timothy 4:12 CEB

It was a mild fall afternoon in Brandon and we were waiting in the car line at the high school. There were dozens of cars waiting to pick up their students after a day of school. Usually the students were more than ready to get out of the school and parking lot. The parents were not longing to spend any more time in the sea of cars than necessary. However, some people were a little more anxious to leave than others. Some would get downright aggressive in their desire to be first, or next, in line. On this day one of the parents got particularly aggressive with me. Somehow, she thought I had hindered her progress or disrespected her right to be next. She proceeded to pull up next to me and honk her horn while extending a certain finger into the air in my direction. The windows were down and you could also hear her using some choice language to express her displeasure with me. This continued until we both exited the parking lot onto the main street and she sped away in anger. I remember her actions, attitude and demeanor vividly to this day. I believe others who were there that day may also remember this person. That day she chose to set an example for all to see and remember.

Once you set an example you cannot hide it. Your words, actions, love (or lack of) are on display for everyone to see. Your example cannot be taken back either. Over the next four years I saw her in car line often. I have no idea if the woman I mentioned above had any regrets after that day. Her daughter was in the car with her and both of my daughters were in the car with me. There were dozens of other parents and students observing this example. I have often wondered what the students all thought about her behavior, especially her own daughter. I know my girls were embarrassed if I played the radio too loud when picking them up. I also don’t know what had been happening in the woman’s life to have her respond the way she did. I really did pray for her that day. One thing I know for sure … this woman’s example was not a positive one. She chose to behave poorly, use corrosive and toxic language, and not be loving toward another person. In fact, in my car we discussed how important it is to NOT respond in that way. We talked about how it was not worth getting that upset about something so little. It is said that we lead by example and I believe this was a poor leadership moment. I have to believe that given another chance she would have liked to respond differently.

There is great influence in our example. It can either be negative or positive—it’s our choice. There is tremendous influence in a positive, godly example. This is what Paul is telling Timothy in the verse above. Timothy is to command and teach certain things to the church in Ephesus. Paul knows that some will look down on Timothy just because of his age. Due to this, Paul reminds Timothy to not just command and teach, but to set an example for the believers. Paul knows firsthand the power of a positive, godly example. Paul goes on to say, “Practice these things, and live by them so that your progress will be visible to all.” It is important for all believers—those who follow Jesus—to understand the influence of a positive, godly example. In the Bible, we think of people like Abraham, Isaac, David, Solomon, Ruth, Esther, Deborah, Isaiah, Elijah, Peter, John, Paul and many more. We are all called to do our very best to live a positive, godly example in all things and everywhere. We do this through our words, actions, love, faith, and purity. Our example equals our influence for God.

What example will you set today? I’m sure that you will be presented with many opportunities today to respond to situations as they come up. Will you choose to set a positive, godly example from the start? I truly believe it is a choice we make every day—many times a day. You have a chance to influence those around you through your example. The One who gave his life for you chose this every day of his earthy life. Christ lived the example for all of us of the tremendous influence of a positive, godly life. Will you follow the example of Christ today in your life? It’s a choice to decide what example you will set today.

The greatest influence you may have is the example you set for others this day. May we all set a positive, godly example for all to see God’s glory in us.

This Sunday we continue the message series entitled Influence: A Study of 1 Timothy. We will discuss the influence of example. I hope you will join us this week and every week as we dive into God’s Word. The best is yet to come at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!

June 15, 2018

"Without question, the mystery of godliness is great: he was revealed as a human, declared righteous by the Spirit, seen by angels, preached throughout the nations, believed in around the world, and taken up in glory.”  1 Timothy 3:16 CEB

Are you serious? No, I mean are you a serious person? Are you a practical joker who loves to make people laugh? Are you someone who loves to research facts and organize them in a way that will help people learn? Who we are is extremely important in life and knowing who we are is even more important. There has been a lot of research around emotional intelligence and how important it is for success in life. The physical source of emotional intelligence is the communication between your emotional and rational brains.i In essence, emotional intelligence is about being in touch with our whole self and getting the most out of ourselves. This has value for everyone regardless of what you do for a living. Who we are is extremely important and knowing who we are is even more important.

I believe that God wants us to know exactly who we are—in Christ. Genesis 1:27 tells us, “So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself, male and female he created them.” The psalmist proclaims God’s masterfully creative work, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14) We are all creations of the Creator God. We are people of sacred worth and children of God. It is out of this identity that we live and move and have our being. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “… it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”

Over the past year the reminder of identity has played a big role in my life. As part of a leadership program in which I was participating, I read the following quote:

“Your task is not to become a leader. Your task is to become yourself, and to use yourself completely—all your gifts and skills and energies—to make your vision manifest. You must withhold nothing. You must, in sum, become the person you started out to be and enjoy the process of becoming.”ii

The goal is to become yourself—all of you. As a follower of Jesus Christ, the goal is to become who you are in Christ. We are to live more and more into this identity every day. To employ all of who God created you to be—all your gifts and skills and energies—to the glory of God. The purpose we have been given, and are created to fulfill, is to be an instrument of God’s grace as we lead more and more people to a growing faith in Jesus Christ. In this regard, every one of us has influence and is a part of leading people to Christ. Leadership is about becoming yourself—your true self as revealed in Jesus Christ.

I believe this is why Paul wrote to Timothy a reminder about Jesus when he wrote, “Without question, the mystery of godliness is great: he was revealed as a human, declared righteous by the Spirit, seen by angels, preached throughout the nations, believed in around the world, and taken up in glory.” The truth is Jesus is who he said he is—which means we are who Jesus says we are. You are the light of the world, a city on a hill, a witness to Christ’s love, a follower of Jesus, Jesus’ friend, a joint heir with Christ. You are to live and lead out of this identity. There is no one else who can do it the way you will. Be who Christ calls you to be and enjoy the journey of becoming more of you and more like Christ. Go out today and be yourself—all that God created you to be in Jesus Christ—and I guarantee you will be leading and you will have influence.

This Sunday we continue the message series entitled Influence: A Study of 1 Timothy. We will discuss the influence of leadership. I hope you will join us this week and every week as we dive into God’s Word. The best is yet to come at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!

i Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Graves

ii On Becoming A Leader by Warren Bennis

June 8, 2018

"There is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the human Christ Jesus ...”
1 Corinthians 2:5 (CEB)

It’s a phrase that many people grew up either using or hearing in their home. It usually came out when someone was not sure what the answer should be or which direction to take. The phrase was uttered by a parent who was being non-committal—perhaps for various reasons. The question that brought about the phrase was asked by a child desiring a favorable outcome. Seemingly, more often than not the child was working one parent against the other. So, the question is asked and the parent utters the phrase, “Go ask your mother/father.” Very rarely when I was growing up did one parent give a definitive answer without asking me to consult with the other parent. One parent actually ended up being the mediator of the request. It’s not always easy to work through an intermediary or mediator.

The idea of going through a mediator, or intermediary, is found in the Old Testament sacrificial system. The Israelite people would bring their sacrifices to the temple and the priest would make the sacrifice on their behalf. The priests were the intermediary between the people and God. Only the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies to gain access to God. There was no direct access to the God of Abraham and Isaac, it was done through the priests. The people of God followed God’s commandments, the sacrificial system, and the words of the priests and prophets. The emphasis was faithfulness and obedience to God’s law. As you might well imagine it was a very difficult thing for the people to accomplish. It was not always easy for God’s people to work through an intermediary when trying to live for God.

The Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that God initiates a new way. The 10 Commandments of the Old Testament are still valid. The call to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength is still of the utmost importance. A new way is made for direct access to the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. His name is Jesus. Jesus’ life, ministry, death, and resurrection was all about offering a new way for God's people, really all people, to be made right with God. It is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ that we are forgiven and made right with God. In our right relationship with God we have a savior, Jesus Christ, who mediates on our behalf. This is what the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy as a reminder. Paul wrote, “There is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, the human Christ Jesus.” Jesus is the one mediator—the direct access to God—between God and humanity. The once for all sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary eliminated the need for the sacrificial system. The New Covenant meant direct access to God through Jesus Christ.

Today when you pray you have direct access to God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—through Jesus Christ. When you pray, God hears your prayer. You don’t need to ask anyone else. For me, that is empowering. I know that when I pray in the name of Jesus Christ there is power. There is direct power in the direct access to God in Jesus. When you say your prayers today be sure to remember that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God the Father advocating on your behalf. The Savior of all humanity and all creation is mediating for you. This should empower your prayer life and encourage you to pray bold, authentic prayers that go straight to the heart of your faithfulness to God. Know that you have direct access to God through the one mediator, Jesus Christ.

This weekend we continue the message series entitled Influence: A Study of 1 Timothy. We will discuss the influence of prayer. I hope you will join us this week and every week. The best is yet to come at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!

June 1, 2018

"Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good." Romans 12:9 (NLT)

I learned a valuable lesson when I was much younger than I am now. My family moved from Michigan the summer between my sixth and seventh grade years in school. I finished elementary school in Kalamazoo, Michigan and began Junior High School in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Different states in the same country, but worlds apart. I started at a brand-new school where I knew absolutely no one, except the school guidance counselor who had helped register me for classes. It was a super awkward time the first few months of school.

As a seventh grader trying to make friends I made a poor, and somewhat desperate, decision. I decided that it would be easier to make friends if I created a story about myself. In other words, I lied. The story wasn't that important or impressive. I believed that people would not find me interesting enough, so I made up a story I thought they would find interesting. I pretended to be something I was not. It was in that first school year I made friends with someone who would end up being a lifelong friend. After we had gotten to be pretty good friends I took a risk. I decided to tell him that the story I had told was not true. I came clean. I stopped pretending and decided to be myself. It was a risk because my friend could have not forgiven me. My friend did forgive me. He told me that he wanted me to be myself and that I didn't need to pretend, and we are still good friends to this day. From that day forward, I have never pretended with anyone.

The unfortunate thing is that I still see people who are pretending. I know what it looks like. They act one way when they are with people and very differently when those same people are not there. They put on a good face in front of the crowds, but they are completely different when no one is there. Followers of Jesus Christ do not have this option. We cannot pretend to be someone we are not; we cannot offer pretend love either. Pretend love is when you act nice and loving toward people when the spotlight is on, but when the lights are off and no one is watching you do not show love at all. Pretend love smiles a lot in person and criticizes a lot in private. Followers of Jesus Christ are called to real, Christ-like love all the time. There is no room for pretend love.

This is what Paul is referring to when he says not to pretend to love others. Instead, Paul instructs followers of Jesus to really love others. So, when you find yourself tempted to smile and make nice when someone is present but criticize them when they are not present ... DON'T! That is pretend love. Jesus calls us to so much more. Jesus says the mark of His followers is that they love one another. True love. Paul writes to Timothy, “The goal in instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5) So, put away pretend love and really love the people around you. Love them with the real, true, and perfect love with which Christ loved you. It will make a world of difference; I guarantee it!

This Sunday we begin a new message series entitled Influence: A Study of 1 Timothy. We will start with a discussion on the influence of love. I hope you will join us this week and every week. The best is yet to come at St. Andrew’s and I can’t wait to see you in church!

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