Not Slow but Patient

Our daily devotional is a re-post from Words Of Hope. We re-post this with permission of Words of Hope. God bless you!

Not Slow but Patient
November 29, 2020

Read: 2 Peter 3:1-10

The Lord is . . . patient toward you. (v. 9)

During Advent, and then continuing through the end of December, the Words of Hope devotional is written by a group of faculty and staff from Western Theological Seminary. Our community is thoughtful and reflective, and we fully embrace the liturgical seasons of the church year as we worship together.

Advent is a favorite season for our community. This time of year is muted and dark and waiting is the major theme. We often presume we are waiting for Christmas, but let’s be honest, we aren’t really waiting for Jesus’ birth. He was already born, and we know his story.

The event we are actually waiting for in Advent is, as our passage from 2 Peter illustrates, the second coming of Jesus. I don’t know about you, but at times I have a hard time feeling confident that Jesus is actually going to come again. When I read Peter’s assertion “that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing” (v. 3), it doesn’t take much translation to apply those words. They hit close to home. Maybe I’m not a public scoffer, but at least I am a private doubter. And then I remember that’s why it’s called faith. It takes faith to believe Jesus will come again. It’s hard for some of us, yet Advent calls us to it. And so we acknowledge that we are waiting in this season, taking comfort in Peter’s words that the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promises but patient. Thank God for that. —Jeff Munroe

As you pray, thank God for his patience.

God Restores

Our daily devotional is a re-post from Words Of Hope. We re-post this with permission of Words of Hope. God bless you!

God Restores
November 28, 2020

Read: Psalm 107:39-43

He raises up the needy out of affliction. (v. 41)

During my 80 days of working from home last spring, I began using ancient prayers to frame my days. A repeated refrain from the Book of Common Prayer asks, “Let not the needy, O Lord, be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor taken away.” I began to pay attention to this theme in Scripture. Verse 41 promises that God “raises up the needy,” which answers cries like Psalm 70:5, “But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God!”

How does God raise up the needy? Through people. For the returned exiles of Psalm 107, God had inclined the heart of a ruler towards mercy, first Cyrus and later King Artaxerxes in Nehemiah’s day (Ezra 1-6; Neh. 2:1-8). Farmers were instructed to not harvest every stalk of grain, “You shall leave them for the poor” (Lev. 19:10). Paul invited the Corinthians to receive an offering for the poor in Jerusalem during a famine (2 Cor. 8-9). And it is care for the poor that Jesus made the central theme of his final parable (Matt. 25).

Who is God inviting you to raise out of affliction? Earlier this year, when many in the U.S. received government stimulus checks, some in my community decided others were more in need. In a grassroots viral moment, people began bringing their checks to our pastor to help a refugee family. In one afternoon, God raised up this family from despair. How is God inviting you? —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, ask God to help you see what he sees.

Keep Movin’

Our daily devotional is a re-post from Words Of Hope. We re-post this with permission of Words of Hope. God bless you!

Keep Movin’
November 27, 2020

Read: Psalm 107:33-38

They sow fields and plant vineyards. (v. 37)

The people of this psalm had been exiles. God judged Judah for unfaithfulness to him and injustice towards the poor. In faithfulness to his covenant with his people, he reversed their fortunes because of their sin. They questioned how to live in this unexpected situation. Should they just wait for God to set them free? The false prophet Hananiah thought so: “Within two years I will bring back . . .” (Jer. 28:3).

Not Jeremiah. “Build houses and live in them,” he told the people. “Plant gardens and eat their produce . . . seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile” (Jer. 29:5-7). He knew they had to get on with living in a new reality. And by so doing, both they and Babylon would prosper.

None of us choose the crises that confront us. What if, instead of anxious wonder, we viewed our deserts as places God wants to turn into springs of water (Ps. 107:35)? What if we participated in God’s redeeming work in the world in which we find ourselves? How might we build up our cities and plant vineyards (vv. 36-37)?

After the initial shock of COVID-19 last spring, God did amazing things through new creativity. In Uganda, for example, our team used their new livestream equipment in such a way that the national media broadcasted live worship to more than 2 million people weekly for free. Only God could bring about that spring in the desert! What river is God ready to bring to your situation? —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, ask God to help you build up your city.

At Our Wits’ End

Our daily devotional is a re-post from Words Of Hope. We re-post this with permission of Words of Hope. God bless you!

At Our Wits’ End
November 26, 2020

Read: Psalm 107:23-32

He made the storm be still. (v. 29)

The sailors in today’s passage are at their wits’ end (v. 27). Life was going according to plan, even smooth sailing. Then, out of the blue, a storm tossed their boat to and fro, and the sailors were knocked to their knees. We are so similar, going about our business, even nobly advancing godly causes, but when a crisis comes, we are left helplessly wondering what comes next.

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. It’s a day when many of us will look back on the blessings of this past year, but that feels a little harder this year. At times I have felt at my wit’s end. Crisis after crisis (after crisis) all feel like a gut punch. We didn’t see it coming. We stagger like sailors tossed by waves or fret like frightened disciples in the boat with Jesus. What comes next?

Every storm is an opportunity to trust. No storm happens by chance. God is not surprised by the storm because it is he who “raised the stormy wind” (v. 25). We may not understand why but we do know who to cry out to. The wind and waves still obey his voice and are hushed at his command (v. 29). The disciples learned this in the boat on the Sea of Galilee when Jesus “rebuked the winds and the sea” (Matt. 8:26). It is still true today. Challenges remain, but with Jesus in the boat, no storm will ever undo us. —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, ask God to still your storms.

Redeemed Fools

Our daily devotional is a re-post from Words Of Hope. We re-post this with permission of Words of Hope. God bless you!

Redeemed Fools
November 25, 2020

Read: Psalm 107:17-22

He sent out his word and healed them. (v. 20)

The “redeemed” of verse 2 are the “fools” of verse 17. Fools do not so much willfully rebel as they carelessly miss God’s way. I am quick to think such fools are those steeped in addictions like drugs, alcohol, or some other besetting behavior. But then I look in the mirror and like C. S. Lewis, I’m appalled by what I find: “a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a hareem of fondled hatreds” (Surprised by Joy).

An honest assessment of ourselves reveals a daily battle with all kinds of sin that threatens to undo us. The struggle is real. Paul expressed it in Romans 7:19, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” We all can relate to that.

We will daily deal with the foolishness of sin, but we do not have to loathe ourselves or others. When the fools cried out to God, “he sent out his word and healed them” (Ps. 107:20). God’s Word revives the soul, makes wise the simple, and is sweeter than honey (Ps. 19:7, 10). Moreover, the apostle John declared: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). That Word was a living person—Jesus! And Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to guide us into all the truth (John 16:13). Let us then, dear friends, replace sin’s loathing with daily drinking in of God’s Word. You’re doing it right now. Keep up the good habit. —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, thank God for his healing Word.

Out from the Shadow of Death

Our daily devotional is a re-post from Words Of Hope. We re-post this with permission of Words of Hope. God bless you!

Out from the Shadow of Death
November 24, 2020

Read: Psalm 107:10-16

. . . prisoners in affliction . . . (v. 10)

More than 2.3 million people in North America experience imprisonment today, among well over 10 million worldwide. They are incarcerated for violating human law. The prisoners in today’s key verse had done far worse. They had rebelled against God’s words and spurned God’s counsel (v. 11). These people of Judah were carried off to exile in Babylon for their continued faithlessness. Like the thief next to Jesus on the cross, they knew they deserved God’s wrath as the reward of their deeds (Luke 23:41). The justice of God demands a payment of death.

But God’s grace is greater than the offense. The prisoners cried out, and God delivered them (v. 12). Deserving death, they were set free! Paul described us all in this way: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked . . . But God, being rich in mercy . . . made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:1-5). Whether in a physical prison or not, all of us have rebelled against God and are dead in sin. Thanks be to God for his measureless mercy and infinite grace.

Among our readers are several thousand inmates who receive Words of Hope devotionals. One wrote recently, “I love this booklet, and how much it helps me cope and stay connected with God on a daily basis. I look forward to reading every night before bed.” No matter where this day finds you, you can experience freedom in Jesus. —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, ask God to bless our sisters and brothers in prison.

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 40

November 23, 2020

Dozens blessed from throw-aways

Not so long ago I received a phone call from a woman in the church. She works at MPS Enterprises, a marketing company. Frequently this company has food products for their use. What to do when the company no longer has a use for these foods? Well, this woman asked me if I knew anyone who might be able to use Turkey Breasts and Hams that might her company could no longer use. The food would either be used by someone or it would have to be disposed of. Do I know anyone who can use food? I certainly do.

Pam has an office at St. Matthew’s Lutheran church in Hoboken. This congregation hosted a feeding program for the homeless in their town. Since Corona, the feeding room has been closed. Instead of indoor feeding these homeless people are given bagged lunches for their daily food. The pastor there was sending out an urgent request for people to donate lunches.

In Boonton, the First Reformed Church of Boonton runs a food pantry. They get a great amount of canned goods and bread but are often lacking in fresh meats. I asked the pastor there if the pantry could use some meats. Of course, she was interested.

I carved the meats. Pam made a box load of sandwiches for Hoboken where dozens of homeless were fed. The remainder of the meats were packaged in zip lock bags and sent to Boonton where dozens of families received fresh meat. Such sandwiches and meat packs would not be meaningful to those of us with good incomes and comfortable lives but they can literally mean life or death to economically vulnerable people All of this came from one woman who could not stand to see good meat thrown away, MPS Enterprises, and a few people doing a few hours of work.

A few people with a few hours can make a world of difference to those who need our help the most. Let us celebrate this good work and find new ways to bless those who need our blessing.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #MPSEnterprises

#StMatthewsLutheran                                             #FirstReformedChurchBoonton

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Reflexiones Ministeriales del lunes
Por el reverendo Mark William Ennis
Blog Número 40
Naberiembre 23 de noviembre de 2020

Docenas bendecidos de desechables

No hace mucho tiempo recibí una llamada telefónica de una mujer en la iglesia. Trabaja en MPS Enterprises, una compañía de marketing. Con frecuencia esta empresa tiene productos alimenticios para su uso. ¿Qué hacer cuando la empresa ya no tiene uso para estos alimentos? Bueno, esta mujer me preguntó si conocía a alguien que pudiera ser capaz de usar pavo y jamones que su empresa podría dejar de utilizar. La comida sería usada por alguien o tendría que ser desechada. ¿conozco a alguien que pueda usar alimentos? Claro que sí.

Pam tiene una oficina en la iglesia luterana de San Mateo en Hoboken. Esta congregación organizó un programa de alimentación para los sin hogar en su ciudad. Desde Corona, la sala de alimentación ha sido cerrada. En lugar de alimentar a estas personas sin hogar se les dan almuerzos en bolsas para su comida diaria. El pastor de allí estaba enviando una petición urgente para que la gente donara almuerzos.

En Boonton, la primera Iglesia reformada de Boonton dirige una despensa de alimentos. Reciben una gran cantidad de productos enlatados y pan, pero a menudo carecen de carnes frescas. Le pregunté al pastor si la despensa podía usar algunas carnes. Por supuesto, estaba interesada.

Talló las carnes. PAM hizo una carga de bocadillos para Hoboken donde se alimentaron docenas de personas sin hogar. El resto de las carnes fueron envasadas en bolsas de cierre y enviadas a Boonton, donde docenas de familias recibieron carne fresca. Esos sándwiches y paquetes de carne no serían significativos para aquellos de nosotros con buenos ingresos y vidas cómodas, pero pueden significar literalmente vida o muerte para personas económicamente vulnerables. Todo esto vino de una mujer que no podía soportar ver la buena carne desechada, MPS Enterprises, y algunas personas haciendo unas horas de trabajo.

Algunas personas con unas pocas horas pueden hacer un mundo de diferencia para aquellos que más necesitan nuestra ayuda. Celebremos esta buena obra y encontremos nuevas maneras de bendecir a aquellos que necesitan nuestra bendición.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #MPSEnterprises

#StMatthewsLutheran                                             #FirstReformedChurchBoonton

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order a copy of his book: https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Satisfied

Our daily devotional is a re-post from Words Of Hope. We re-post this with permission of Words of Hope. God bless you!

Satisfied
November 23, 2020

Read: Psalm 107:4-9

For he satisfies the longing soul. (v. 9)

The Irish rock band U2 had a hit in 1987 with the song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” It labels the soul-searching despair for meaning that so many know too well. The redeemed in our verses today knew both the longing of that quest and the quenching of their thirst in God. It reminds me of Augustine’s famous words, “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

In February, I met a man from Iraq who came to know Jesus after a long search. For years he stared into the night desert sky and asked God to show him the truth. Then one night, the radio station he listened to aired a message about Jesus recorded by our Farsi-speaking producer. He received Jesus as his Savior and Lord! It would be 13 more years before he was able to be baptized. As he testified to me, I saw the words of verses 8 and 9 come to life: “Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love . . . For he satisfies the longing soul.”

Jesus promised in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6). And so they are! Are you searching? Does your soul long to be satisfied? Look no further than Jesus. To a woman drawing water at a well he offered, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (John 4:14). He makes the same invitation to you and me today. —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, thank God for satisfying your soul in Jesus.

The Friendly Church