Engage Community Church

Author: engageharco

AS WE ENTER THE NEW YEAR

2nd Advent

For centuries, God spoke through the prophets and upheld the covenant he had made with Israel through the Law of Moses. 
Then he seemingly went silent. He promised that a child would be born, and a new way would be established.
He promised light in the darkness and the forgiveness of sins. But then, the people were left to wait and encouraged to be faithful.
During these centuries, there was much turmoil in Israel. The Bible does not tell us anything about those years, but Jewish tradition and
literature tell us of conquering armies that occupied the land and desecrated the temple. It tell us of battles fought by God’s people and miracles preserving His people.
Then finally, in the fullness of time, God sent His son. Jesus came. He arrived and the first “advent” was met with angelic praise and the worship of
both common shepherds and wise guest from other lands. God had come; Emmanuel, God with us! Yet it was not what they expected.
This gentle king with kindness and compassion for the lost sheep of Israel, and burning with holy fire against what the leaders had made of the covenant
and promise to God’s people, did not overthrow the Romans. Instead, he went to a cross.
A few of his people came to understand what He had done. They began to spread the news throughout the world in the face of opposition.
Those of us reading this, know the story because of their efforts. We know that the Baby of Bethlehem was the Savior of Calvary. We know the new
covenant he brought; the forgiveness of sins and eternal life that is ours by grace through faith. And yet, we still wait.
We wait now for the second advent of God with us. Creation itself groans, awaiting His return, and He will return. At the first advent, Christ appeared
as a helpless baby. He experienced life and loss and became the perfect sacrifice. God came near and made a way for us to be restored to our Father.
At the second advent, He will come as conquering King. The final war with pain, and sing, and grief, and evil itself will be won, and we will live in the
House of the Lord forever. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!

For now we wait, full of hope, still in peace, strengthened by joy, and sharing His love.

Pastor Evan  

 

Thanksliving

As November as arrived, many are pushing right ahead to Christmas. Stores are full of trees and lights and other commercial trappings that signal the season. But are we missing something here?

Thanksgiving was originally created as a holiday to take time out and express gratitude to God for the blessings he provided in the year. It is set at harvest time, because that’s when we see the results of our labor and his gracious provision. Thanksgiving is under a bit of an attack when we ignore it to get to our peppermint flavored lattes and jingle bell filled music. Add to that the cultural novelty of rebranding it “Friendsgiving”, and the idea of being thankful to God can get lost altogether. We already have enough of that. 
What would it be like instead to make thanksgiving more than a day on the calendar and a turkey on the table? What would it look like to make it a way of living? What does Thanksliving look like?
The story is told that during a harvest festival in India, an old widow arrived at her church with an extraordinarily large offering of rice - far more than the poor woman could be expected to afford. The itinerant pastor of the church did not know the widow well. But he did know that she was very poor and so he asked her if she were making the offering in gratitude for some unusual blessing.
 "Yes," replied the woman. "My son was sick and I promised a large gift to God if he got well." "And your son has recovered?" asked the pastor. The widow paused. "No," she said. "He died last week. But I know that he is in God's care; for that I am especially thankful."
It seems odd to us that we might find “thankfulness” on a list of emotions we may have when enduring one of life’s great hardships. How can we be thankful when things have gone so wrong? How can we feel gratitude for the pain and the loss? 

In his first letter to the church in Thessalonica, Paul writes these words:
             “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all        circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
In these few words, Paul supplies perspective on even the hardships of life. God’s desire and will for us is that we find hope and joy in Christ Jesus. Even if we face death, there is joy because life is just beginning. There is hope, because heaven awaits. That joy in the face of earthly trouble can do more than anything else to proclaim the saving grace of Jesus to a world in desperate need of him.

For the believer, who knows that God is completely in charge and working all things for our good, we can be especially thankful that when we have know feelings of control, that He holds all things. We can take heart – and give thanks – because he has overcome this world! That’s the key to Thanksliving.

Pastor Evan

One Body

                Both in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians, Paul describes the Church as the body of Christ. He spends time in 1 Corinthians explaining the importance of every member to the body, and in Ephesians he reminds us that those members need to be unified in Christ. This week, there has been a real-life reminder of how the body works together as one. Although there are many members of our body, they are combined to form one body and each member affects the entire body.

                On Thursday I was just about to go out and meet with someone who attends Engage, when my phone rang. It was the high school calling to let me know that Abby had dislocated her shoulder and had asked them to call me instead of an ambulance. As I got to the school, she was in the nurses office and in quite a bit of pain. As the nurse wheeled her outside, every bump and crack in the sidewalk sent a vibration through Abby that signaled pain from her shoulder to her brain. Her entire body felt and was affected by the pain of one of its members. Over the next few minutes, I tried to balance between driving quickly and driving smoothly, avoiding as many bumps and unjulations in the road as I could on the way to the ER.

                I had called and cancelled my appointment, and was grateful that after an initial communication about the need to cancel and the reason why, I received another communication around an hour later asking about Abigail and how she was doing. Later that evening, I received another text asking how we were and if there was anything we needed. Both of these examples show the truth about the body of Christ.

                Just as Abigail’s entire body reacted to and felt the pain of her shoulder, so too is the church impacted when any part of it struggles or is in pain. We bear one another’s burdens and feel each other’s pains and joys, not because we are just nice people, but because we are united in Christ. We are His body in this local expression we call Engage, and we belong to each other.

                In the same way, the support and encouragement received and well wishing texts, show a care and strength that being a part of the body entails. We are here to build each other up and to love one another. Concern and offers of care are what the body is for. We are family and this is the reason God has united us, to encourage one another and to spur each other on in love and with good deeds.

                This month, we will be talking about church membership. What is it? Why is it necessary? How is it different than membership in a club or organization? What does it require and provide? It is my prayer that at the end of this series we all will be more united in Christ; one faith, one Lord, one baptism, one body.

Pastor Evan