PEACE … Life’s Essential Context

Peace … it’s an inside out thing but like so many other faith concepts, our tendency is to make it just the opposite. If we can order our outside world according to our liking and manage or control it then we assume that everything will be okay internally. But the propensity to manage and control is the very problem that makes our ends, so elusive. It creates the internal chaos that makes peace impossible.

The Advent themes: Hope, Peace, Joy and Love strike at the very heart of our desire to find our way independent of God and others.

This week we are highlighting the Peace that comes to us in relationship with God. It is the peace that you bring to life that matters, not the peace that you believe that you can find in life itself. We’ll chat that through in the CLC-ish way today, praying that God communicates Himself to you in the way that you most need Him.

Isn’t it amazing how easy and blessed an experience that we can find when we choose to focus on the Christ whose birthday season we celebrate? It still amazes me.

Advent 2023 Hope …

What does hope look like?

It’s the difference between going forward passionately and going backward or simply giving up. It is a conviction that things are never as bad as they seem and that there is always a “way”. Hope looks for the good and rejoices in it as opposed to the bad and wallowing in despair. Hope believes that we prepare the way for the King to return to something better than he left.

Isaiah writes the following and it is echoed several times in the gospels:

“A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”” (Isaiah 40:3–5, NIV84)

We don’t abdicate our place in this world or abandon the efforts to make it a better place. We work for the coming of the King.

Have you experienced the preparations that we undertake in this nation when royalty visits? We want to be at our best and outlandish amounts of money are spent to present the best version of ourselves.

Capitalism justifies itself Christianly, by claiming that we extract everything that we can from this planet and use it for our benefit. The rich just keep getting richer at the expense of creation itself and the poor. In the end, sometimes spoken and sometimes presumed we live as though we need not care for what we have been given by God because it is all destined for destruction. And there is untempered truth in all of this but it does not justify callous disregard for the good of others or our temporary home.

Some believe that the Christ that we anticipate will come when things get bad enough. What if the opposite is true? What if He will return when they get good enough? (1 Thess. 5:1-3) Make sure you read the bracketed portion of scripture. Peace precedes His coming. What if we hasten His return by making this world a better place rather than leaving it to its own devices?

Personally I would rather engage in making things better, not worse by intent or neglect. We are purveyors of Hope. We are the “light of the world” not the blight of the world. God has called us to bring beauty. Did you read that in Isaiah’s words?

He speaks of the Glory of the Lord being revealed as we engage in making things better. Read it again.

“Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed …”

Could we lay aside the darkness of despair for the sake of that Hope? It’s not just the Christmas experience that suffers but everyday life itself when we allow ourselves to be the bad news bears. Whatever else the gospel is, it is not bad news. A bad news gospel is not gospel at all. It is just pessimistic propaganda that breeds discouragement and robs people of Hope.

I feel as though I am constantly reminding people to look up. Square your shoulders back, lift your heads and look up. Don’t allow yourself to be robbed of the moment in which God wants you to live for bad experiences of the past or a pessimistic paradigm that paints a discouraging picture of the future. We are expecting something good, not something bad.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.” (Titus 2:11–15, NIV84)

Thanks for joining us at CLC on this first Sunday of another wonderful Advent season.

2020 Advent Week 2

It’s Tuesday evening.  We’ve had a wind and rain event today.  The ferry has been out of service all day.  The email just came through and it won’t return to the island until tomorrow morning to make the first trip.  I have lived on Grand Manan for a total of 24 years.  The other forty-two of my sixty-five have been spent elsewhere.  I am glad to be home.  If there ever was a group of people who understand that things don’t always go as planned, it would be someone who lives right here.

Whether it is a ferry trip that is canceled due to high winds or vacation plans postponed because the catch was down.  None of these things are in our control.  Still we love our beautiful island home.  Right now things are out of our control.  I just circulated a request for input re: Sunday services.  The concensus is that orange is not a color that we can work with.  So we’ll move one single event online rather than meet in person on Sunday.  We are talking about an hour and a half gathering.  For me it leaves a huge gaping hole but my faith is not built on a 90 minute Sunday event. 

My Hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness.

I insert this video because I ran to it tonight.  I have never known anxiety in my life but a perfect storm has converged on my life in the last three plus years.  It is absolutely nothing compared ot what some of you have faced but it has been too much for me, enough so that I have been driven to connect as deeply as I can with my spiritual resources.  This song has a particular relevance to me these days.

If one of you has a music video or some other material that you have connected with and you’d like to share it, email me at karl.ingersoll@gmail.com and I’ll include it in our online material.

Here is some scripture that I have used this week.  Take a few minutes and look up the passages and think about them.

I have been thinking about the idea of peace.  When Jesus showed up, he brought peace to every conflict or calamity.  He deescalated things except for the religious folk.  Stiil they were unable to argue with his perspective.  I watched a Netflx documentary which was both good and disturbing.  It had to do with misinformation on the internet and how people can be manipulated to believe lies.  Our peace is shattered unless we can get on solid ground.  Facebook, although a wonderful utility for certain purposes, only facilitates confusion a lack of peace.  I have yet to fully process this documentrary but it will make a difference in my own social media presence.

So peace is eliminating the noise, confusion, misinformation.  The favor of God brings peace.  Read the scripture below:

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.””

(Luke 2:8–14, NIV84)

“Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. And because of his words many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.””

(John 4:39–42, NIV84)

 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.” A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

(John 20:24–31, NIV84)

The other scriptures as well have to do with knowledge and belief.  The woman at the well shared her testimony which impacted her community but there cam a point when the townspeople believed for themselves.  They made whatever step of faith necessary, from the knowledge that they had to personal trust in Christ.  Knowledge never takes us the distance.  In the end we all must trust for ourselves.

The scripture re: Thomas illustrates the rfusal to take someone else’s words for anything.  Thomas insisted on seeing for himself.  That’s not doubt at work, in my opinion but discernment.  Look at the following scripture:

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.” (1 John 4:1–6, NIV84)

As you watch the video today, note what is required beyond knowledge, to take us the distance.  I have mentioned a few thinsg.  You may think of more.  Remember belief is more a matter of the heart than the head. If we are to know the peace of God, it will begin in our hearts.  Paul tells us that we can know the “peace of God that passes all understanding“.

 

Advent 2020, Week 1 … Hope

It’s week two of our Zone 2 setback to the orange level.  Every day I look for one item of information … how many new cases.  That’s about all that i can tolerate.  Covid 19 consumes my thoughts at a personal level and as it relates to the our local spiritual family at Community Life Church.  I’m tired of a ceasless information stream and little to tell us what is actually the truth and what is actually garbage.

If you believe that there is an insidfious plot unfolding around us and our rights are being taken away, it would be madness.  If you believe that we are so purely evil that God cannot stand to look at us, then there would be very few bright spots on the horizon today.  I believe there are far more good people in the world than bad.  I believe there is good in most everyone and bad as well.  This removes any justification that we might find to judge one another.  I believe that we bear the image of God as the imprint of creation.  This image is marred and disfigured but it is there.  If we take the ime to look we will find it.  Larry Crabb, in his book, “Connecting“, speaks of a diligent search for wahtv is good as a reltional priciple that help us to build a bond with others.

We are lousy at that as people who call ourselves Christians.  We’d rather find the dirt.

I believe that those who lead the way in this pandemic are good people who are concened with helping others, preventing death and the spread of disease.  I’ll do my part in good faith , not blind faith and not cynical suspicion.

Advent is a season, not an event.  It reaches for our attention over a period of days and challenges us to look to our spiritual nature.  This is the true Christmas season.  Let me encourage you to take it for what it is, not what we have made of it.  Let me challenge you to not let your bad past experience to rob you of good present experience. 

I hope this short, croaky reflectin may bring something good to your soul today …

Countdown …

We are in the final hours before the Christmas event that we are all so accustomed to.  Elaine has been wrapping presents for our kids as they visit over the holidays.  She has made our home an absolutely beautiful place and seems to draw energy from the process.  Excitement radiates from her and I am so grateful for those who bring joy to us in these special days.

I have added a few sliders to the website, www.community-life.church … these will bring you up to speed with some new things happening at CLC.

I had the privilege this week to be a part of the annual, Action Ministries Christmas box distribution.  It is an absolutely amazing effort that makes me proud to be a Christ-follower and a Grand Manan’er to boot.

I admit to being obsessed with raising awareness of God’s goodness in this season.  I think what I really want is for people to experience the Christ in Christmas more than anything else.  Advent always serves as a time that helps me to re-center and find the heart of all the activity.  When I do, I fall in love with Jesus all over again … truly.

“It is impossible to conceive how different things would have turned out if that birth had not happened whenever, wherever, however it did … for millions of people who have lived since, the birth of Jesus made possible not just a new way of understanding life but a new way of living it. It is a truth that, for twenty centuries, there have been untold numbers of men and women who, in untold numbers of ways, have been so grasped by the child who was born, so caught up in the message he taught and the life he lived, that they have found themselves profoundly changed by their relationship with him.” -Frederick Buechner

The world around us would prefer a Christmas without Christ.  People would substitute a hundred other less offensive options.  It is so silly when you think of it … the lengths to which people will go to avoid a helpless baby born in a forsaken manger, love personified, God in flesh.

And yet here is where the meaning is found.  There is no greater beauty that we can create with our hands, no gift so all-encompassing that can stand in such a timeless manner.

A part of me believes that Jesus is not the problem … religion is.  It is such a poor substitute and yet we seem to be so enamoured with it.  I really have never met anyone searching for organized religion to meet the deep soul needs that we have.  Most people simply don’t like organized religion.  Our response … let’s get more organized.

Whatever our motives may be, letting go of the need to control is the hard part and so often, organization is a tool that serves those who would like to control things.  I pray that you would find less need to manage the affairs of others this season, that you would be able to trust that God who relinquished the power seat when he wrapped Himself in flesh, could find His way to your distracted and perhaps calloused heart in these days … that you would know a better Christmas than you have ever known.

Merry Christmas …

Karl and Elaine

Christmas Dinner Info …

Info for those helping with the cooking for our Christmas Dinner, this Sunday @ 10:30am.

Sonya called this morning and asked if I could post the following info:

  • For those cooking vegetables, they can be picked up at the church anytime.  She has asked that the peas be left to warm up on Sunday morning.
  • The “birds” will be here shortly.  The ham is available right now for any who have agreed to cook the meat for us.
  • I’ll do my very best to leave the church open during the day so that these items can be picked up.  If you want to make sure that someone is here, call the church number (662-8454) or my cell # – 222-0410.

Thanks so much for agreeing to help.

And for some info re: the gathering …

Service will begin at the normal time this week, 10:30am. (As close as ever get to that start time anyway … )  The first 45 minutes will be a program which will include:

  • An Advent devotional (video, candle-lighting.)  This is to keep the reasons to celebrate Christmas before us.  It is so very easy to be distracted in our consumer culture.
  • Musical selections from several people
  • A skit from the children’s ministry

The meal will begin at 11:30am.

And a personal note …

There are few things that can serve to knit relational bonds like sharing food and fellowship together.  Christmas bespeaks family.  This is one of the reasons that it also holds sadness for those grieving, those whose home life was a painful experience, and those experiencing relational breakdown.

When my home was coming apart, it drove me to my only other option … my church family.  These folks filled a relational void in my life.  It wasn’t just them.  It was Christ in them.  I don’t believe that a person has to go to church (place, event) to know Christ or to live as a Christian.  I do believe that we need a faith community that we connect to in many different ways.  A Sunday service is not enough.  Keith Green used to say, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to MacDonalds makes you a hamburger.”  This kind of activity holds maximal meaning only when we are solidly connected to a spiritual family.

One aspect of my personal hopes for CLC is that we would be (I think we may be.) a solid, safe, accepting Christian family for any and all who need a spiritual home.

One more thing … please fill out the contact for below to receive current news from CLC, directly to your inbox.

Thanks,

Karl

 

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