Engage Community Church

Devotionals

It’s Your Best Guests

It is always nice to be asked. Whether it is for a life event or just a night out with friends, it feels nice to receive an invitation. It shows that people are  thinking of us and that we are important enough to be included. We are valued. Some invitations are more meaningful than others, of course. It may be that an invitation is just a formality, like when you are invited to your 3rd cousin’s wedding in Bora Bora. They know you aren’t coming; you know you aren’t going, but still, the invitation is sent and received. Or maybe it is to an invitation to your nephew’s mid-year college graduation in North Dakota. Outside. In December. There is no way you are making that trip, but still, they remembered you.

When Jesus came to the world, he gave an open invitation, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30) He asks us to continue sending that invitation to any and all we know. 

When you invite someone to church, it shows that you care. Even when you don’t think the person will come, or you have been declined 100 times, keep making the invitation. Doing so indicates that not only is your faith and church important to you, but that the person being invited is important to you. You want to share a part of your life that is valuable, with the people in your life that are valuable. It also shows your love and devotion to Christ by being obedient to His command to make disciples. Going to church and inviting people to church is certainly not the only thing we do to fulfill the Great Commission, but it can be a wonderful step in that direction. 

Finally, inviting people to church is an effective way to get them there. Advertising is an option, but it is the least effective option and often costs an inordinate amount of money. What about a visitation ministry? Shouldn’t the pastor and/or some qualified folks chase down leads I give them? While more effective than advertising, it is just barely so and takes a lot of time in an increasingly closed off culture. What about the pastor? Isn’t it his job to grow the church? Well, yes and no. His call is to equip the saints to do ministry (Eph.4:11-12). While he certainly should invite people, he or even multiple staff will never get the job done. It is “expected” that the Pastor will ask. His invitation is less meaningful, especially to your friends and family. 

The best way to get people to come to church, is for a friend to invite them, and keep inviting them. So who will you invite?

Pastor Evan

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  

 

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