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!

May 25, 2018

“I tell you that you are Peter. And I’ll build my church on this rock. The gates of the underworld won’t be able to stand against it.”  Matthew 16:18 CEB

When Peter was called to come and follow Jesus I don’t believe he had any idea about that with which he would be getting involved. It could be that he thought this new Rabbi saw something in him that no one else had. Maybe Peter was just up for a new adventure. Perhaps Peter was tired of fishing every day. Whatever the reason, Peter dropped what he was doing and followed Jesus. Peter followed as Jesus turned water into wine. Peter followed as Jesus healed lepers, gave sight to the blind, healed a woman that no one else could for decades, and threw demons into swine. Peter followed Jesus through moments of intimate prayer and conversation. Peter was taught by Jesus when it was just Jesus and the twelve. Peter truly followed. Peter went all in when Jesus said, “Come and follow me, and I will teach you how to fish for people.”

Then in a way of testing His disciple’s understanding of all that they have seen and heard, Jesus asks them who people are saying that he is. They answer some are saying John the Baptist, others Elijah, and still others are saying Jesus is Jeremiah or another prophet. Jesus says to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon answers first saying, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter had been paying attention. All of Jesus’ teachings had paid off and rubbed off on Peter. He realized exactly who Jesus was and was able to articulate his thoughts clearly. Jesus tells Peter that he is right and could have only come to that conclusion by divine revelation. Peter gets it and because of this Jesus declares, “I tell you that you are Peter. And I’ll build my church on this rock.” As you most likely know, the Greek word for Peter is petra, which means rock. Jesus says that Peter will be the foundation of the church that Jesus will build. If you fast forward to Acts chapter 2 you can begin to see what Jesus meant. Peter went fishing in Acts chapter 2 and caught 3,000 people with one message.

What is so important about this story in Scripture? Two things are important: 1) Peter confesses Jesus Christ as Lord, the Messiah, and 2) Jesus says He will partner with Peter to build His church. Jesus tells Peter that He will build His church on his witness and leadership. When we jump to Acts we see that Jesus did just that. Jesus was Peter’s fishing buddy that day and every day after. Jesus is the best fishing buddy for which Peter could ever ask. It is amazing to see Peter, after receiving the power of the Holy Spirit, put into action all the things that Jesus had taught him and positioned him to do. All because Jesus was his fishing buddy. The best buddy he, or you and I, could ever have. The promise of Jesus is that He will never leave us alone (Matt 28:20). Jesus is the best fishing buddy anyone could ever have, and His church exists to partner with us in fishing as well.

So, will you fish? We know that followers of Jesus fish—it’s what we do. We also know that anyone who follows Jesus has a story to tell of how Jesus has transformed their life. We must trust God and be bold in sharing how our story intersects with the word of God. The simple question is will we fish? The Great Commission found at the end of The Gospel of Matthew commands us to go and fish. We must tell the story everywhere to everyone every time God presents the opportunity. The greatest news of all is that Jesus promises to be the best fishing buddy ever! It is Jesus who teaches us to fish, it is Jesus who partners with us as our fishing buddy, and it is Jesus who builds the church to support our fishing expeditions. Jesus is asking all of us to come follow Him and fish for people. So, GO FISH! May the words of Acts 5:14 come true as we go on our fishing expeditions – “Indeed, more and more believers in the Lord, large numbers of both men and women, were added to the church.”

This Sunday we conclude the message series Go Fish. Next Sunday we will start a message series on 1 Timothy entitled Influence where we will discuss the various ways we can help each other, and the community, deepen their faith in Jesus through our influence. 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!

May 18, 2018

“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking God’s word with Confidence.”
Acts 4:31b CEB

Confidence is defined as the state or quality of being certain; trusting in one’s ability. The Greek word, which is translated as “confidence” in The Common English Bible at the end of verse 31 of chapter four in The Book of The Acts of the Apostles, is parresίas, which can also be translated as “bold.” As I read through this passage of Scripture I found it amazing that the early church asked for confidence and boldness in the face of adversity. I believe that it is more common in our current context for people to ask for protection or discernment in difficult situations. The early followers of Jesus asked for boldness and confidence in teaching and preaching God’s word. Their primary concern wasn’t their own protection—they wanted to spread the Good News. They prayed and asked God to give them confidence and boldness when they were feeling uncertain.

What would it mean for us to pray for boldness and confidence in sharing our faith? The main reason people indicate they are not sharing their faith is fear. Fear is on every list of why people are not willing to share their faith. Fear of being rejected, ridiculed, or released from their job. People fear being labeled as a freak, fanatic, or flake. Do you remember many years ago when a famous politician belittled Christians as being weak, nonintellectual, and using religion as a crutch? A lot of people do and it is public opinions like that which keep fear alive in the hearts of a lot of believers. Fear is defined as anxious concern or anticipation of something bad and/or dangerous. If we allow fear to dominate over our ability to share the Good News of Jesus Christ we are not doing the work to which Christ called us. This is why the earliest believers prayed for boldness and confidence.

Here are five reasons it is important to have boldness and confidence in sharing your faith.

1. The Holy Spirit - Boldness and confidence comes from the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. When the believers prayed for boldness they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Once the Holy Spirit filled them they were able to speak with boldness and confidence.

2. It imitates Jesus - Jesus was not timid in telling people about the Good News. Jesus held the Sadducees and the Pharisees accountable for their actions, he cast out demons, healed the sick, and raised Lazarus from the dead. When we are bold we are truly following Jesus—imitating Christ.

3. Jesus' Name – We are called to share the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the name of Jesus. In the Great Commission Jesus commissions the disciples to make more disciples baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. As Jesus told his disciples, “I will do whatever you ask for in my name, so that the Father can be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13)

4. No pressure – If we do have any fear about sharing our faith, we can be bold and confident because Scripture is quite clear that the Holy Spirit is with us and will lead us to know what to say. (Mark 13:11) While Peter shared his faith and gave witness to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit did the convincing (Acts 10:44).

5. It works – The truth is that people respond to the Good News when we proclaim it with confidence and boldness. People want to know that you truly believe what you are sharing. When you share with boldness and confidence those with whom you are sharing can see the evidence of what God is doing in your life.

I believe we should all join together and pray to God for boldness and confidence. As we pray we should expect the Holy Spirit to fill us to overflowing so we will speak the Word of God with confidence. Set fear aside and be bold today in your faith. Walk right into the opportunities God puts in your life today and share your faith with confidence. It may get messy, it may not go perfectly, but you can do it boldly and confidently leaving the rest to the Holy Spirit. May your word and thought for today be confidence!

This Sunday we continue the message series Go Fish. We will discuss what it means to share our story boldly with confidence. Fishing is messy but it is worth it. 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!

May 11, 2018

 “As for us, we can’t stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Acts 4:20 CEB

Some people have a lot to say. You know the folks who are willing to share anytime, anywhere, about anything. I don’t mean this pejoratively either. Some folks have a lot to say. When our oldest daughter was very young she had a lot to say. We learned early that our daughter processed things verbally and was a bit of a chatterbox. It was a lot of fun, actually. When I was in seminary I was with her most of the day for most of her first three years of life. It was fun to listen to her process her thoughts verbally. Then came her baby sister. Our youngest daughter did not have a lot to say when she was little. We believe there was one main reason for this phenomenon—her sister. Just because a baby sister came along did not mean that the older sister had any less to say. She ended up speaking for her baby sister on most occasions. It was unrealistic to think that just because her sister was born that she would stop talking. She couldn’t stop talking, she had things to say.

Shouldn’t this be the way things are with those who have experienced the saving grace of Jesus Christ? We have something to say. So why do we remain so quiet about our faith? The grace of God has freed us from slavery to sin and death. We are redeemed and free people who can live without fear of condemnation. We should be the most excited and grateful people on the face of the earth. Now, this isn’t just in the past tense either. We experience God’s grace every moment of every day. God’s blessings never cease and God is at the ready to have us join in the work of grace all around us. We have the freedom to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ each and every day. All of this blessing in our life and yet most of us do not take every opportunity to speak about what we have seen and heard. Why?

We know the reasons before I even ask the question: fear of rejection, consequences at work, lack of knowledge, uncertain of the questions that will come, and many more. There is a simple answer to all of these objections—no one is asking you to be an expert, just speak about what you have seen and heard. We all have a story to tell. Every follower of Jesus Christ has a story of how they have experienced God’s grace through a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. What is your story? When you know your story, you can’t help but speak about your story. We should all be able to tell our grace/Jesus story in two minutes or less. Of course, there is plenty more to share but we should have a abridged version as well. If Jesus has transformed your life, you have a story to tell. How can you stop speaking about what you have seen and heard? Peter and John could not stop speaking about what they had seen and heard—why do we?

The challenge is to know your story. Take the time to develop your story down to a two minute version. Be on the lookout for the opportunities that God puts in your path to share your story. Will you share your story today? This is a part of Jesus’ Great Commission to all of his disciples, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you.” [Matthew 28:19-20a] We cannot make disciples without telling our story and the story of Jesus. Everyone has a story and we are to tell our story. Can you imagine what would happen if every follower of Jesus were to join Peter and John in saying, “As for us, we can’t stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

This Sunday we continue the message series Go Fish. We will discuss what it means to share our story as we fish for people. Jesus gives us all a fish tale to tell. 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!

May 4, 2018

“'Come, follow me,’ he said, ‘and I’ll show you how to fish for people.’”  Mark 1:17 CEB

Fishing is a little bit of an art form. It certainly is an object lesson in patience. Those who are good at fishing are students of the sport. It doesn’t matter if you are fly fishing, freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing, or commercial fishing you must know what you are doing. You must determine the right bait, the right line, the right rod and reel, the right boat, and the right area to do well. There is a lot that goes into being good at fishing. Over the years I have known many people who are very good at fishing. I have always admired them for one reason—I am lousy at fishing. When I was a kid I spent many hours hooking worms and trying to catch fish. I caught a few fish but was never considered successful—at all. Ironically, my most successful fishing expedition was when I was about nine. I grabbed a cane pole with no bait and dropped it into the water off the end of the dock. Within seconds a had a bite and began pulling my catch out of the water. It was an 11-inch Pike, which I caught with no bait and no effort. I guess I decided to hang up my fishing pole as a winner. Fishing takes a lot more effort than that if one wants to be successful.

There is a different kind of fishing discussed in the Gospels. Jesus calls his disciples from a career of fishing. They must have been good at fishing because it was their livelihood. Every day they would mend their nets, prepare all the gear, ready the boats and head out on the water. At the end of each day they would, hopefully, bring in the haul of fish and prepare them for the market. Day in and day out this was the rhythm of their life. Then one day a teacher, prophet comes along and changes everything. Jesus calls out to them and asks them to follow him. Along with the call to follow comes a promise—I’ll show you how to fish for people. That had to hit them as a strange promise. No one fishes for people. If these newly called disciples were to take Jesus literally they would certainly be confused by his words. Yet, they followed. Scripture records that they left their nets and followed Jesus. Simon and Andrew, James and John, all of them immediately left their life of fishing for fish and followed the One who promised to teach them to fish for people.

The question for us, as modern-day disciples of Jesus, is does Jesus still teach us to fish for people. Let’s answer that right away in one word—yes. Jesus still calls disciples to come follow him and he still promises to teach us to fish. Most churches have discerned this promise as a call to evangelism, and it is. Perhaps there is a better way to look at this promise of Jesus more holistically. The call is in part to evangelism, but the more holistic approach is that of disciple-making or discipleship. Jesus' call to follow him was a call to discipleship. A portion of that call to discipleship was calling and developing more disciples. This was the promise to join the fishing expedition. We are called to discipleship when we give our life to Christ. We become followers of Jesus AND we become followers who fish! When it comes to fishing for people we must remember that we were all fish once. Someone fished for us. Jesus pursued us. Now, as followers of Jesus we are called to fish and develop other followers. The amazing thing is that Jesus puts people in our path in life so that we can fish. Jesus teaches us to fish for people and places the people for whom we are fishing right in our path.

Are you fishing? Who has Jesus placed in your path? Are you willing to fish for them? Today you will cross paths with dozens of people, who has God placed in your path today who needs to hear the good news of hope and new life in Jesus? As one who is called to discipleship, Jesus also promises to teach us how to fish for people. I know it’s scary, but Jesus—by the power and person of the Holy Spirit—will teach us how to fish for people. Jesus will show us how to share our faith and be faithful to his call. This call to fish for people will most likely take days, weeks, months, or years to reel in the fish. Will you take the first step today? Followers of Jesus fish—will you fish today?

This Sunday we begin a new message series Go Fish. We will discuss what it means to live out Jesus Christ’s call to follow Him and fish for people. We will discuss who the fish are, how Jesus gives us all a fish tale, the messiness of fishing, and the practice of fishing with a buddy. 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!

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!

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