Engage Community Church

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Love God Most

What are the things that vie most for your time and affections?  Family? Hobbies? Work?
The truth is that we all have things that rise to the top of the heap at different times. This is the nature of life and our attempts to balance all of the different parts of it. Amidst the pressures and pleasures of life, however, God calls us to keep Him first. In Exodus 20:3, we read that we are to have no other gods before Him.  While we would not consider our jobs, kids, spouse, or possessions gods in the classic sense, there is a real sense in which these are often raised to first place in our lives even to the detriment of our worship and dependence on God.

In Mark 10:17-30, we read the story of a young man who by all accounts was a model example of what it means to love God and follow Him. Because of his devotion and desire to be right with God, he approached Jesus and asked what he needed to do in order to receive eternal life. Jesus responded that he needed to keep the commandments. The young man affirmed his adherence to them, but Jesus points out what one thing he lacks. He has elevated his love for his money above his love for God. His possessions have displaced God from the set of affection in His heart. So then, Jesus tells him to sell all he has and to follow him. The man, unwilling to do so walks away sad.

The temptation for us is to make this story about the evils of wealth. The reality is that wealth is not the main point of the story. For this young man, his wealth was indeed his competing God, but that doesn’t let us off the hook. The point was, he loved something more than he loved the Lord. When viewed clearly, we are all that young man. Maybe for us it isn’t wealth, but maybe we put our family, or job, or spouse, or hobbies before God. We spend our time, money, energies, and affections on these things so much that what we have to offer God is the leftovers or perhaps nothing at all.What then is the message of the story? It is a corrective to challenge the gods of our lives that tempt us to offer our worship to them instead of to God.

The story reminds us that to love God and keep him first is to remember that he loves us most. We, his adopted, redeemed children in Christ, are the apple of His eye. He gave himself to restore and save us.
It also points out that just one thing can keep us from God’s best. Replacing him with anything else – even something good – keeps us from His best for us. Lastly it reminds us to follow through and fight for the relationship we so greatly desire. Because we love God most, we must continue to keep Him first. Nothing is so important to the enemy than to drive a wedge between the savior and ourselves. Since he cannot change the love of Christ for us, he attacks our hearts and seeks to grow our affections for other things. In doing so, he doesn’t ask us to love Jesus less, he instead causes us to love other things more so that we never perceive the reordering of our lives in such a way that Christ is removed from his position.

So, what do you love more than God? Are you actively seeking to keep it in its proper place so that your affections for God are first in your heart? Are you willing to give it up or lay it down for His sake? How would your life be different with God in His rightful place? What does God want to do in and through you, but can’t until you love Him most?

Pastor Evan

Who Are You Listening To?

                The team of teenagers had gone out on the streets of Toronto with a sense of excitement and hope. They would be on the front lines, meeting people who were homeless and hopeless and making a difference for Jesus. There was a real sense of expectation that was fueled by an evangelistic fire born of youthful exuberance and heartfelt belief. Today was a day they would make a difference.

It wasn’t long until they saw him. He was sitting there, dirty and sullen, his face aged by life on the streets. Here was a man who needed Jesus. Here was a man who they could reach out to. So they sat down beside him and began.

“Hi, what’s your name?” “Sebastian.”, came the reply. “Hi Sebastian, I’m Katie and this is Tim and Stephanie.” “You’re Christians, aren’t you?”, Sebastian interrupted. “Why yes, we are!” said Katie, “How did you know?”  “Because Christians are always talking”.

The story above is true. A friend of mine, Brian Matherlee, took a group of teens to Toronto on a short-term missions trip and they returned with a lesson they never considered before going. It was a lesson we all need to learn.

Often in our desire to win the world, we neglect to take time to hear them. We know what they need! They need Jesus! But what they need more than anything is someone to listen. They need someone to care, someone to treat them as a human being with hurts, hopes, dreams and nightmares. Yes, Jesus is the answer, but what we need is to know the question.

Sometimes we treat the lost as a target, an objective or a number. This often betrays our need for evangelistic success. The need to feel as if we’ve made a difference. Unfortunately, this is not what we have been called to do.  We have been called to love and serve the least of these. The first step is to listen to them like Jesus does. Then and only then can we hope to give them the answer.

The Bible tells us to be quick to hear and slow to speak. Who are you listening to?

Pastor Evan

Forgotten God?

                A decade ago, Francis Chan wrote a book entitled, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit. The point of the book is summed up in the following quote from his introduction:
                  
                  “While no evangelical would deny His existence, I’m willing to bet that there are millions of
                     churchgoers across America who cannot confidently say they have experiences His presence
                     or action in their lives over the past year. And many of them do not believe they can.”

                Chan goes on to discuss the way the church has left behind a reliance on the Holy Spirit. We effectively have removed Him from the Trinity and perhaps even have replaced the worship of God in three persons with a worship of possibly the Son alone. Practically, we are no longer orthodox in our understanding, teaching, and living when it comes to how we follow and experience the triune God of the Bible.

                In our technologically advanced world, it is easy to rely on only what we can see and explain. In fact, the common knowledge of our day screams that if something is not scientifically quantifiable, then it does not exist. Therefore, the God of the Bible and especially the Holy Spirit is relegated to myth; the feeble attempts of ages gone by to make sense of a world they could not empirically define or understand. Unfortunately, while we talk about the Holy Spirit, we lived much more in line with the prevalent ethos of our scientific world than we do in line with the Church we read about in the New Testament.

                When we read about the Church in the New Testament, we see miracles performed and lives and hearts changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Things happened that could not be explained in any other way. Common, ordinary men do great things and the message of the Gospel floods the known world in just a couple of decades without the benefit of modern communications like social media, cables news, and internet marketing. Yet we are often at a loss to know how to reach the person next door. Could it be that we have forgotten the Holy Spirit?
               
              The songs we sing focus mostly on Jesus and what He DID for us. This is great, but are we asking
the Holy Spirit what He wants to DO in and through us? Are we content to celebrate the completed work of Christ, or are we desiring to do the continuing work of God through the leading and power of the Holy Spirit? Are we happy to wonder what God’s will is for our life, or are we desperate to know and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in the next 10 minutes?

                June 19th is Pentecost Sunday. We will be celebrating the coming of the Spirit of God. Jesus promised that He would send the Spirit and that He would comfort us, empower us, and guide us in all truth. It is my desire that we would seek, listen for, depend on, obey, and experience the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of our Church in the coming months. We certainly can continue to hold weekly gatherings and to be a church on paper, but the success of Engage in being what God calls us be – our very existence – depends on the Holy Spirit’s presence and work in our midst and through our lives.

Pastor Evan

The Problem of Illiteracy


None of us would argue that it is okay for someone to spend their lives unable to read or write. We understand the challenges that being illiterate present for a person. Studies have shown that those who are unable to read or write generally have lower paying jobs, more periods of unemployment, lower self-esteem, greater instances of generational poverty, and a lower quality of life and health.
The power of literacy has long been known and understood. For this very reason, slaves in the United States were forbidden to learn to read or write and anyone helping them to do so could be criminally prosecuted. Knowledge is power and if you want to remain in power, you will keep others from gaining access through literacy.

We understand these truths and want our children to learn these important skills. We want them to be able to learn and grow and engage society empowered by knowledge. We give them access to education and to books, and other sources of knowledge so they can get ahead in life and not be taken advantage of due to ignorance. Why then do we forget this truth when it comes to our spiritual lives?

               A Lifeway Resources Survey revealed that among evangelical believers who attend church regularly, only 1 in 5 said they read their Bible daily. Less than half read it more than once a week. 40% said that they read it maybe once or twice a month. Again, 1 in 5, said they never read it.

              For the Church, Biblical illiteracy is a big problem. It is no wonder that the Church is beginning to leave behind Biblical truth and to be swept away by a rising tide of cultural moral relevance. The truth is that just as illiteracy leads to a poverty and struggle, and keeps people in bondage, Biblical illiteracy has the same effect on a person’s spiritual life. People who don’t know and read their Bibles will be spiritually poor, ignorant, and slaves to the spiritually evil powers of this world.

            The Bible reveals God and His will to us. In its pages, we read words of truth that bring life and freedom. The Bible contains all we need to grow in the knowledge and grace of God. We are promised that the Holy Spirit will guide us in all truth as we read and consider God’s word. We will be able to test the messages of the world around us to see if they are from God or the enemy. The
Bible contains words of life.

               Take a moment to consider your literacy level. Where are you in regard to Biblical literacy?

We have more options and opportunities than ever before to read, study, learn, and live the Word of God. And yet, we take so little advantage of the abundance of resources we have. Meanwhile, there are people around the world today who desire to have access to the Bible, but who are prevented by law and other barriers from having it. In the past, many men and women have literally given their lives so that people can have access to the Bible in their own language. They believed that it was worth trading their lives so that others could hold the Gospel in their hands and receive its blessings.

             May we, as a church, grow in our desire for the knowledge, truth, and grace that comes through God’s Word. May we not take for granted the access we have, but take advantage of it to grow in spiritual strength, wisdom, knowledge and be equipped for every good work.

Pastor Evan