Last Sunday for a While and Why I’m Eternally Grateful For You

On Sunday it was my last official Sunday as Plattsville’s lead pastor. A position I have held for over 4 years, and one I have loved every single minute of it. Plattsville is a really unique and special church. They have something special within them about how they practice grace, how they show love, and how they support.

So on Sunday for my final sermon here, I re-preached the passage I preached for my first sermon here: Philippians 1.

Here in Philippians Paul is writing to a church he deeply deeply loves but has been called away from. And he writes this:

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. I always pray for you, and I make my request with a heart full of joy because you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.”

I unpacked this passage a little bit and why Paul was so thankful to the Philippian church.

Paul was so grateful to the Philippian church because of how they supported him. Paul was in prison and in that day and age meals weren’t covered or provided. You needed to rely on others for your daily sustenance and support. And the Philippian church were part of daily providing for Paul.

Paul was also deeply welcomed into the Philippian church family. All you need to do is to read his letter and how often he mentions them as dearest friends, brother and sisters, or partners in God’s grace to get that these are just people to him – they are his people. They are his family. He loves his church because they welcomed him.

And lastly, Paul loves the Philippian church because they have been his partners in sharing God’s grace. Paul makes that explicit in the first few verses, and keeps on mentioning it throughout his letter. He loves the church because of what they did together.

And on Sunday I shared with you all that I love this church for the same reason. That you supported me, that you welcomed me, and together we partnered with God in the business of God’s grace. I shared story after story after story of how you did that. And that bcause of how you supported, welcomed, and partnered I am eternally grateful.

That was my main point really: that I’m grateful to each and everyone of you, because this is a special church. I challenged each of you to commit to this place, because this is a special place.

And to close I ended the same way I started almost 5 years ago with these words:

Paul writes, ““Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. I always pray for you, and I make my request with a heart full of joy because you  have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now.” I actually believe that this passage is prophetic for us. Meaning that I believe it will be true for us. That, like Paul, in years to come, when we’ve been living out this grace business for a while, I’ll be able to say to you like Paul did to the Philippians. Plattsville church every time I think of you, I’m filled with thanksgiving. With joy, with excitement. It’s never a struggle to pray for you, and my prayers to God are always filled with joy at the amazing privilege and honor it is to be your pastor. This is because you and I have joined in this grace business of God together. We’ve jumped in with two feet, supporting one another, loving one another, and deciding that from day one we would be about spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ

And that’s exactly what happened.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: I am so grateful for you.

Teaching Points:

  • I’ll always consider myself part of this place and your pastor.
  • Paul loves Phillipi because of how they supported him, welcomed him, and partnered together with God.
  • When someone is hurting, you don’t get to take the focus.
  • Being changed by Jesus and changing lives with Jesus.
  • You have a special place in my heart.
  • This is a church that supports one another, journeys together, and is about God’s grace.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? How have you been welcomed here, supported here, or partnered together in sharing God’s grace? What are you thankful for in this place? Are you willing to commit and see what the future God has for you?

Challenge for the Week: This place rocks, and you should commit to being here.

Last Sunday

mic-1-1570690-1920x1440Sunday will be my last official Sunday here at Plattsville as the Lead Pastor. I’ll be transitioning to Bethany Community Church in the next few weeks, to be their teaching pastor, leading into being the lead pastor.

So Sunday will be a bit of a difficult Sunday for me, and also for many of you I suspect as well. All change is hard to process through, and this type of change is particularly difficult at times. It’s difficult because while I feel called to Bethany, I also love this church.

So on Sunday what I want to do is simply this: I want to affirm in this church why every time I think of you I am grateful. I want to affirm and share with you what you as a a church have done in my life in the past 4+ years. I want to share with you as Paul says, “You will always have a special place in my heart.”

So if you can join us on Sunday, please do. To not only say goodbye, but also to celebrate why Plattsville was, is, and will be a wonderful place for years to come.

Toilet Paper Races

IMG_6814So I had this moment today when I realized I often want my kids to be perfect, rather than…well kids. And this happened when they had been quiet for quite a while, and I went to check on them and they were just giggling and giggling.

What I found was them racing toilet paper down the stairs in a giant mess.

And my first instinct was to get frustrated, to tell them to pick it all up. My first instinct was to be a fun-killer. My first gut reaction was I wanted them to be perfect (not playing with toilet paper) rather than kids (people who play with toilet paper).

But I realized honestly – they aren’t wrecking anything really, they aren’t being disrespectful, they are just being two boys playing with toilet paper. And it hit me sometimes in our quest to have our kids grow up well, we expect them to grow up too fast. In our desire to raise them well, we raise the bar too high. Sometimes we forget that seeing a stack of toilet paper to a kid is hours of fun.

So I write all this for one reason: enjoy those moments with your kids, grandkids, or neighbours. Don’t force them to grow up too quickly, acting like adults. Let them be kids and join in a bit.

So I gave them an extra roll of toilet paper, some tape so they could build a ramp, and then helped them clean it up in the end.

Looking Back, to Look Forward

remember-1-1152856-1600x1600So on Sunday we looked back at some of the different lessons God has really taught us in the past 4+ years here. Because I believe that what God teaches us in the past is what often prepares us for our future. The trouble is that we are so forgetful. We forget what God has taught us, we forget the lesson, and we move on.

So we wanted to halt that memory loss by remembering 4 key lessons God has taught us as a church over the past number of years.

The first was to focus on your great work. I believe that God has something that each of us are to do that is lasting and impactful. For some this great work is launching a business, writing a book, starting a ministry, or being a great dad, being an amazing wife, being the best grandmother possible. Each of us are graced for different things, the point is not to give up on what God has given us. We remembered an amazing story of Nehemiah where when a good opportunity comes along he says, “No I am doing a great work I cannot come down”. This is what we need to do, focus on the great work God has for us.

We also remembered that our lives leave a legacy that can shape generations. We looked at Jacob and Esau and how one decision by Esau changed and shaped Jospeh so that when he was in the same situation as Esau he knew how to act. And lives were changed and generations were saved. We can have the same impact if we choose our choices intentionally, if we do the hard stuff of living like Jesus.

We then looked at something hard but necessary to do: forgiveness. The truth is that forgiveness as a Christian isn’t optional – it’s kinda part of the job description. But it’s really hard to do, but that’s why it’s so life changing. So we remembered and reflected on how forgiveness, while hard to give, is necessary and challenges ourselves to give forgiveness to someone.

And last but not least, we looked at the story of Jesus and the disciples in the boat. And we reflected on a main point we had worked through earlier this year. That when difficult and darkness come that we need to always remember who is in our boat. God is always with us, and we can’t let the storms steal our focus from him.

So that’s what we learned on Sunday. The main point was really don’t forget what God has taught you. And we challenge each of us with a simple challenge: to put one of these lessons into practice. Because the way we ensure we don’t forget what God teaches us, is to live it out. Things we practice and use, we remember and don’t forget.

So we closed with a challenge. To put one of these four lessons into practice: to focus on your great work, to ensure you leave a legacy, practice forgiveness, and never forget Jesus is in your boat. Because it’s when you start to live differently that lives are changed.

 

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaDon’t forget what God has taught you

Teaching Points:

  • What God prepares in us in the past, is what enables us for his future
  • If we want to find where God is leading us, it begins by remembering what he has done within us.
  • I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. – Nehemiah
  • The choices you make today can be the thing that determines someone’s life years from now.
  • Forgiveness is not a feeling. Forgiveness is a choice to end the cycle of revenge and leave justice in the hands of God. Brian Zahnd
  • Always remember who is in your boat.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What sermons do you remember most? What lessons has God taught you that have been significant in your lifetime? Is there one of those lessons that Andrew shared that resonates? What can you do to take a next step? Who can help you with that?

Challenge for the Week: Put one of these lessons into practice.

Sermons From the Vault

safe-1240163-1280x1920Okay so here is a good question to think about:

What are the top few lessons God has taught you in the past 5 years?

Take a moment and think about it. Because I believe that often what God teaches us in the past, is what is preparing us for his future. But the truth is this: we are quick to forget the lessons we learn. I know this is true of me, and I’m sure it’s probably true for you as well. That we learn something important, or really impactful but a few months go by and we forget or stop living that important truth out.

So here is what we want to do on Sunday. We are going to be looking back in our past for some of the key lessons God has taught us, so we can look forward into the future God has for us.

But before Sunday comes why not spend some time and think and pray about what God has taught you? Because remembering the lessons God teaches isn’t a waste of time, it’s how we grow.

Broken Phones and Broken Hearts

puzzle-heart-1-1141004-1599x1398So Asher broke my phone. Like he dropped it / threw it and cracked the screen…with a case on. I’d have a picture to show you but again – Asher broke my phone.

Now if you’re house is anything like mine when these things happen it is never when you feel filled with patience, lots of time to deal with it, and in a good space. Instead, Eden was crying, and we were trying to get out the door to pick up Hudson from school, so he wouldn’t be wondering where we were. It was then that I asked Asher for the phone that he didn’t want to give me and the throw / drop happened.

I was very frustrated (meaning mad and angry) and I kinda huffed and said now you can’t use dad’s phone or any phone again. And he didn’t say anything but got into the stroller, and crawled into the bottom and fell asleep.

As I was pushing him and his sister towards school God hit me with a thought, “what matters more, a broken screen or a broken heart”. And this is why occasionally I don’t want to hear from God, because when God speaks he can be challenging and convicting. I knew in my heart I was angrier and upset with a broken phone, than making sure I didn’t harm or break Asher’s heart when discussing it with him. I know inwardly I wanted him to really feel how frustrating this was for me. But that’s the problem, I was thinking about me.

So we came back home and I woke him up and got the other kids snacks so we could talk. And as soon as he woke up he gave me a huge hug with little tears and said, “Daddy I so sorry about your phone”. So I hugged him back and said, “It’s okay, it was an accident” because he hadn’t meant to wreck the phone. I talked to him, hugged him, and made sure he felt okay.

And this response only happened because God reminded me that what matters more in life is not things, but people. But so often that gets reversed. So often that gets missed. And we can be so quick to lose perspective, especially with our kids.

Because perspective matters. My hope and prayer is that when Asher grows older he doesn’t remember how mad Dad got when I broke his phone; he’ll remember how well I dealt with it with patience, love, and understanding. Of course that didn’t happen in the moment, but that’s the beautiful thing about life. We get second chances, and can make it right.

So I write all of this to remind us all of one thing: don’t let the little things get in the way of the big things. And in the scheme of life, a phone is a little thing, a relationship is a big thing. So if in anyway you’ve maybe like me missed the point, focused on a thing rather than a person, or overreacted – why not make it right today. Call a friend, tell your spouse your sorry, give your kids a hug and say you love them. Because what I needed that day was a reminder from God, that broken hearts matter more than broken phones and things and maybe you might need the same reminder today.

Anniversary Sunday: 60 Years to Celebrate and More in Our Future

bbq-1-1537565On Sunday we had a great celebration, that our church has been here 60 years. We have been blessed with 6 decades of change and influence in our community and partnering with change in people’s lives.

And so we celebrated, we threw a party, we had a BBQ and bouncy castles. But more than that I also shared on Sunday where I believe we are headed for the next 60 years. And what I believe is this: that the future that is coming is greater than anything we have seen before. That we will be saying, “Who could have seen that coming?”

Because while I know lots of people like to talk about the end of the world, the difficulties of the church, and how the future is dark – that isn’t how Paul talks. Instead, Paul believes, like I do, that there is always good and grace on the horizon. So on Sunday we opened up this passage of Scripture from Ephesians 3 which says, “By his mighty power at work within us, God is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or even to hope.”

God wants to do more in our lives that we have ever hoped, dreamed, or even imagined. The words there translated “infinitely more” means literally vastly more than more. God has vastly more than more in store for you. 

And this is something I have believed about this church from day one and still believe it is true. 

When I came here to be the lead pastor, we had to preach for a “call”. Which basically is a terrifying process where you preach and then everyone votes on you afterwards. Just a small bit of pressure…but it obviously went well.

But this was the verse I preached then. That I believed regardless of whatever happened in the vote, that God had good things in store. And I still believe that. That while lots of people like to pronounce doom and gloom; God is pronouncing life, love, a better future than could ever be imagined. This is your future, and this is mine.

So on Sunday we simply closed with having people state it aloud. To actually say, “God has infinitely more in store for me than I could ever hope or imagine”. Because there are lots of other voices that are saying different things, but I think we need to listen to the Spirit’s voice. The Spirit that says, I have infinitely more in store for you than you could ever hope or imagine. And that…that is good news.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaGod’s got more in store for you, me, and this church.

Teaching Points:

  • If you don’t appreciate the markers you reach, you often stop reaching them.
  • “Who could have seen that coming?”
  • The future that is coming is good.
  • God’s love is so beyond us that we cannot grasp it, but we can experience it.
  • Because when you trust in the future he has for you – you find it.
  • Listen and trust in the future God has for you.
  • Your dreams are too small for God, God’s got bigger in store for you.
  • Are you willing to let God loose in your life?
  • Your future isn’t dependent on you but on what God has in store for you.
  • “God has infinitely more in store for me than I could ever hope or imagine”

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? When you look into the future do you see hope or difficulty? Do you believe that God might have infinitely more in store for you? Are you willing to let him loose in your life? What might that look like to trust in his voice? What next step might you take? Who can you ask for support as you continue to follow him?

Challenge for the Week: Trust in God’s voice

60th Anniversary!!

I hope you can make it on Sunday, as it is our 60th anniversary celebration. We will be having a free BBQ, cake, bouncy castles, rides, and lots lots more. So you don’t want to miss it. Oh and I’ll be speaking too – but don’t forget about the BBQ. So bring a lawn chair, come out to church, hear about our future, and celebrate in the park afterwards. All the details are below. Hope you can make it!

60th Annivseary

Don’t be Scared to Follow

Picture1Fear is a subtle and sneaky thing. It steals good things, and turns them into bad things. It takes joy and excitement because of “what could go wrong.” And it happens so easily, and it happened to us a little while ago when we were trying to sell our house, and unsure why it hasn’t been moving.

And then through a series of unforeseen events, our house became sold. Which was great! This is something I had been stressing and worrying over, and it happened. But then rather than being excited, we got worried that we now have only have a little while to find another house.

All of a sudden this good thing, became almost a bad thing. All of a sudden something to celebrate became something to worry about. This is what fear does, but it also does something subtler and even more dangerous. It steals our gratitude towards God. Because all of a sudden rather than thanking God for what he did, we began to ask him about this worry or problem. Rather than appreciating the gift of our house selling, in his timing, we rushed forward to yet another issue for him to fix.

All of a sudden our focus shifted from God’s hand working in our lives, to what else we needed him to do in our lives.

But God is gracious, and good even when we miss the point.

So the next morning I went into my office to do my daily devotions. Still feeling a little apprehensive about everything. Knowing in my mind that God has the details worked out, but wanting to really know that in my heart. And the passage for my daily Scripture reading was, Number 13:31-14:25. A passage all about trusting, and not giving in to fear. A passage all about following where God has called you to go. A passage all about how God will provide, do miraculous things, and surprise you with the blessings he has for you when you trust. And in the margin I had wrote previously, “TAKE GODLY RISKS, Don’t be scared to follow”.

And while some people might just say it’s a coincidence that was the reading for today. Or some people might say I’m just reading into this, or it’s just random chance. All I can say to that is that it doesn’t feel that way. It feels like God was reminding me that he is with us, and has a future for us. It feels like God is reminding me that trusting in him is never wasted. It feels like God is drawing the attention back to him, and deepening my trust in him because that’s what it’s about.

So I share all this to just remind you of a few things. Don’t let fear steal the future God has for you. Don’t let worry shape your mind so much, that you lose trust in God. Don’t let the “what if’s” of life cloud the fact that God is with you, and for you. Don’t let our anxiety, and uncertainty stop us from taking Godly risks. Or as I needed to be reminded myself, “Don’t be scared to follow” in whatever it is that God has for you. Because the Israelites found out that fear just leaves you wandering in the desert, but trust is the thing that moves you forward.

3 Strands of DNA ~ Heresy, Division, and Faith Expressing Itself in Love

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On Sunday we looked at the last of the strands of DNA within our church. We looked at how we here practice, “Unity in Diversity”.

And this value is one that is so needed and also so rare in our current church culture in the West. In the West we are so quick to divide, to call out “heresy”, to be angry and aggressive in person, on Facebook, in blog comment sections, and online in general.

What we looked at on Sunday is how a culture of division, and raising “secondary” issues to “ultimate” issues has taken hold. That people are quick to say, “if you don’t believe in…[insert current hot topic position] you aren’t a true Christian.”

In essence, the church is taking the easy route of dividing, and isolating – rather than loving and holding onto unity.

But this is not part of our DNA here at our church. Instead, we hold strongly to relationships over difference. Instead, we practice unity in diversity. Or as St. Augustine reportedly said, “Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and love in all things”.

We then explored not only how this is part of our DNA, but part of the calling of God found in many places but especially Galatians 5.

In Galatians 5 we read of how Paul is furious with how some in the church in Galatia are raising secondary issues (circumcision) to being a primary issue. In essence, they were taking a non-essential and saying it was an essential. And Paul has some brutally strong language for those who confuse those categories (just go read verse 12…wow!). And Paul warns the church that one divisive person, one angry person, one person who confuses the categories of essential and non-essential can infect an entire church. They can pollute it, damage it, and harm its witness.

And I think that’s the trend we see around us in the wider church culture. But the point for us and our church is to not ever let that drift happen here. Our focus is to continue  to practicing unity in diversity. Or as Paul says to do what is most important, “Faith expressing itself in love”

And that’s where we ended. I challenged us to just put that verse into practice. That is how we keep the main the thing “the main thing”, by ensuring that we express our faith in love. So I challenge everyone to love someone difficult this week. To actually move away from dogma, discussions, and debates to praxis – to faith expressing itself in love.

Because here is the truth, it’s much harder to separate from someone you are actively seeking to love. So put love into practice today.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaHold onto unity in diversity.

Teaching Points:

  • If you don’t talk about it, you won’t live it
  • Within Christianity as a whole in the West we are not all that generous towards one another or gracious.
  • We are shrinking what we believe orthodoxy is, to the beliefs we personally hold.
  • Unity in essentials, liberty in non-essentials, and love in all things
  • We are committed to one another even if we disagree.
  • Hold onto unity in diversity
  • You come together because of your shared belief in Jesus

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? What would you say are some of our core values? Have you noticed the trend towards dividing and debating in Christianity? Have you ever fallen into it? Why do you think it’s happening? Do you think that “holding onto unity in diversity” is important? How come? Who can you love this week? What can you practically do?

Challenge for the Week: Love someone you disagree with this week