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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

Change is Coming!

Do you wish you had more opportunities to build your friendships
with folks you only see on Sunday morning? Would you be willing to
open your home  once or twice to such an opportunity?


Our Journey Group ministry will soon be starting back
up and we hope you will be a part! Keep watching and
listening for details about our new Journey Group approach!

Back to…

August is done and September is here! As we arrive at the Labor Day weekend, we have to ask, “Where did the summer go?” If you are like me, you have no doubt heard the moans of a return to school, and perhaps a return to work after a late summer, or summer long vacation.

            In many ways, back to school represents another “New Year’s Day”.  In January, it is a time to turn the page and make goals or resolutions about how the next 365 days will be different than the last. This, I believe is a blessing from God. God gives us continuing grace and mercy, and the opportunity to start fresh is an example of this.

            So as we have arrived at this natural mile post in the rhythm of our year, it is a great time to take stock and start fresh. While we may dread the return to school, or perhaps enjoy the return of a familiar routine, we can also take advantage of the opportunity to refresh and return to a spiritual routine that may have slipped over the summer or even since our resolutions were made in January.

            What are the spiritual practices that you need to refresh, restart, and recommit to? What are practices that you may need to begin for the first time or grow and expand? For some of us, it might be reading our Bibles. For others, it might be learning to “pray without ceasing”, that is carrying on a conversation with God throughout our day. Maybe for others, it is making Sunday morning worship a first priority, or joining a Journey Group.

            Wherever you find yourself, the Back to School transition is a great opportunity to return to much more than routine. It is an opportunity to grow and strengthen your faith. So as the calendar moves forward in its’ steady advance towards New Year’s, let’s take advantage of the opportunity to return, restart, renew and recalibrate our lives so that we can finish the 2019 strong.

Pastor Evan