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.

Faith Without Works Is Dead

tumblr_lxl5bkweaC1qhmhdfo1_500On Sunday we are looking at the most well-known passage of James. The passage where James says “faith without works is dead”.

And we are going to wander into this world and statement of James and explore some of the tension with what he is teaching. And there is a tension because Paul says this in Romans, “So we are made right with God through faith and not by works”.

There is this tension that we want to explore theologically, but then also practically with our lives. So with that why not read all of James 2, to hear his arguments, and thoughts before Sunday. Let his words rattle around a little bit, because the beauty of James is that as he rattles around – he will shake things up. And that’s what we need.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless? Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.

Learning to Deal with Anger

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On Sunday we are looking at a topic we’ve looked at before here, but one that needs to be addressed often. We are looking at anger.

And this is a really important topic because as Jesus teaches us anger is like murder (Matthew 5). And what Jesus is trying to get at in that teaching is that anger, just like  murder, can actually kill relationships. Anger can fracture friendships. Anger can wreck families.

And I think we know this and have experienced this before.

But the other side of the coin is this, anger is a feeling we have when our wills get stopped. We get angry when what we want doesn’t happen. In this way then anger is a natural response to the world around us. Paul says in Ephesians 4 in your anger do not sin. Meaning that anger isn’t a sin, our response to anger can determine whether we sin or not.

The point is that if we respond poorly to anger, it will lead to a severing of relationships like Jesus said. If we indulge and cultivate anger it will lead to a fracturing of families like Jesus said.

So on Sunday we want to look at how to deal with anger, how do we respond to anger, and what advice does the Bible give on how to do this. That’s where we are going and I think it’s an important topic. Because if you want to have healthy relationships we need to learn to deal with anger and conflict. So that’s this Sunday and if you want to read ahead – why not start with Ephesians 4. There is some real wisdom in there we’ll be drawing from.

Hudson is a Copying Machine

My little boy Hudson is a copying machine. He copies everything I do. He’s recently started being really interested in coffee (which is great!) and1312_10153003547360643_74897867_n in my morning routine. He now brushes his teeth with me, watches me shave (what little facial hair I have) and talks with me.

Yesterday I found Hudson in our bathroom and told him it was time to go to a friend’s. He said “One minute Daddy”. And then he got out my deodorant and put it on.

He is copying everything I am doing, and in fact I really like it. Knowing that he is watching makes me want to live better. I hope my life is worth imitating.

This is something that Paul gets at. He actually says, “imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). What I realized is that my life needs to be worth imitating. My life needs to be so Christ-like that when Hudson starts to act like me, he is actually acting like Jesus.

Reading that verse made me reflect on whether or not my life was sufficiently Christ-like. Because it is so easy to tell people to follow Jesus without giving them an example. The much harder path of discipleship is to tell people to imitate ourselves, as we imitate Christ. To say, “If you want to know what following Jesus looks like, watch me.” And while this way of teaching is the hardest, because it requires the most congruence, it is also how people learn best. I know this because I see it in Hudson all the time. He learns best  through watching, and following. I hope that through watching and following me, he is not only learning to shave, but to follow Christ. My hope is that he isn’t just picking up on my quirks but my Lord.

So I want to end with one question. Can you say to your friends, family, neighbors and co-workers like Paul – “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” Is your lifestyle worth following or worth imitating? And if not, what do you need to change so that you can say that? Because people learn best by watching and following, and the world needs to know not only about Jesus but to see the example of Jesus through our lives.

So what are people seeing in your life?

My hope is that when Hudson watches and follows me, he isn’t just following his dad, but also his Savior. That’s my hope for my little boy, and it’s the hope of my life. That my life points people to someone greater than just me, that it points people to Jesus.