Immediately

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Immediately

By Scott Hoezee on December 3, 2021

Read: Mark 1:9-13

The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. (v. 12)

Mark’s favorite word is “immediately.” Everything in Mark’s Gospel happens at lightning speed. Mark seems eager to show us that there is tremendous power in Jesus! But the first two instances of “immediately” seem at odds with each other. Mark contains no account of Jesus’ birth. Jesus just appears from out of nowhere to be baptized by John. No sooner does that happen than we are told that “immediately” the heavens were ripped open and the Spirit descended upon Jesus. Then come warm and wonderful words of the Father expressing love and approval for Jesus.

But this is where the next “immediately” crops up. No sooner was Jesus baptized than he was instantly hurled into the dangerous and chaotic wilderness. Life is threatened at every turn in the desert. Water is scarce. Heat is abundant. Wild animals lurk. Throughout Scripture, the wilderness is shorthand for evil. It is the realm of demons and of chaos. So if Jesus is so loved by God, why does the Spirit throw him into such danger?

Because if Jesus is going to heal our sin-sick, chaotic world, he needs to go first to the worst of the worst. If Jesus’ presence can bring healing balm to the wilderness, then he can heal everything. And he does: wild animals are tamed. Angels minister to Jesus. Where Jesus goes, chaos flees and cosmos (order and harmony) takes its place. This salvation will one day penetrate every crooked, chaotic corner of the world, and that is very good news indeed! —Scott Hoezee

As you pray, give thanks to God for conquering all evil and chaos.

The Diagnosis

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

The Diagnosis

By Scott Hoezee on December 2, 2021

Read: Mark 1:4-8

I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. (v. 8)

All four Gospels make clear that John the Baptist was the necessary forerunner to Jesus. You can’t get to Jesus without going through John. And John was all about repentance. John’s message was simple: Each of us has a problem with sin that needs to be confessed. Each of us needs to go down into the waters of baptism to drown out our sinful self so that a new self can come to life. In short, John was sent to diagnose a spiritual ailment that only God’s Christ can heal. John was sent to make the world hungry for Jesus.

By way of analogy: suppose you went to your doctor for a routine physical. Suppose that before you saw the doctor, a nurse came into the room with a large syringe and needle. “Wait a second!” you might exclaim. “I don’t need that. I’m not sick!” No one wants a cure for a sickness they don’t believe they have.

But suppose instead the doctor came in first, examined you, and informed you that you had a very serious medical condition but that thankfully there is a highly effective medicine to get rid of the disease. Well, in that case when the nurse came in with the syringe, you would be far more likely to roll up your sleeve.

John’s role was to diagnose the disease of sin. That way when Jesus shows up with his saving blood, you are eager to be washed clean through what Jesus offers. —Scott Hoezee

As you pray, give thanks for God’s gospel medicine through Jesus.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. John 1:14

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. John 1:14

During the month of December, Christians around the world celebrate Advent and anticipate the birth of Jesus. But why was Jesus born? The simplest answer is also utterly true: to save us from our sins.

However, the New Testament makes clear that the implications and effects of Jesus’ birth are cosmic and world-changing.

In this month’s series, Why Jesus Was Born, we will look first at how each of the four Gospels frames the Advent of Jesus. But then we will close out the month turning to a number of other New Testament passages that reveal to us the full scope of what Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem made possible.

In and through it all, we will widen our appreciation for what Christmas is all about!

Our writer this month is Scott Hoezee. The Rev. Scott Hoezee is the Director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books, regularly writes for The Reformed Journal blog The Twelve, and along with Darrel Delaney is the co-host of the radio program and podcast Groundwork.

I pray that as you read, you will experience the life-changing impacts of Jesus’ birth.

In hope, 


Christy Prins
Managing Editor

While there is much in life that we want to hold tightly to, when we let go and let God we are free to let our very lives serve as a witness to his great love. Our hands can be open to his work, lifted high in praise no matter the time or season. —Joy Petroelje

As you pray, praise God for his unfailing and constant care for you.

Open Hands, Fulfilled Needs

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Open Hands, Fulfilled Needs

By Joy Petroelje on November 30, 2021

Read: Psalm 145

Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. (v. 2)

When we choose to hold the things of this world loosely, letting go and letting God, we open up our lives to worship him more fully. As one of David’s psalms of praise, Psalm 145 reminds me that the Father takes delight in our worship.

Depending on what part of the world you live in, your corporate worship may take place in a large church building, someone’s home, or even in a secret place. When we gather with other believers, we have the opportunity to praise God together, and this is extremely valuable for growth and community.

But how about when we are not gathered with the larger body of believers? How we conduct ourselves at work, home, and in our neighborhoods are also acts of worship, often bearing greater witness than when we are at church. In 2005, Christian music group Casting Crowns released “Lifesong.” In the chorus, the songwriter says he wants to sign God’s name to the end of the day, knowing that his heart was true, and then says, “Let my lifesong sing to You.”

While there is much in life that we want to hold tightly to, when we let go and let God we are free to let our very lives serve as a witness to his great love. Our hands can be open to his work, lifted high in praise no matter the time or season. —Joy Petroelje

As you pray, praise God for his unfailing and constant care for you.

You Did All You Could…

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 48

November 29, 2021

You Did All You Could…

“You did all you could,” I said to a gentleman in my congregation two Sunday’s ago. We were talking over a cup of coffee following worship. His family sat around him. The man, on the brink of Thanksgiving, was grieving the death of a fourteen-year-old boy who was his neighbor and who played sports with his sons. Joe, the church member that I was speaking with, was a coach who administered CPR to the child who collapsed and ultimately died. Joe was feeling a bit guilty because the child did not live despite his efforts.

Tara, his wife and a trained nurse, quickly ran to the scene. She herded all of the nearby children outside for an improvised prayer circle as Joe, and then the responding EMT’s fought to save the boy’s life. Unfortunately, the CPR nor the prayers were able to save Aaron from death. Everyone involved had feelings of guilt and wondering if they had done enough. They all needed assurance.

I have been in such situations as a hospital chaplain. One evening I sat with a chronically ill girl, who was also fourteen years old. As she declined and her parents were in route, they asked a chaplain to sit with her. I prayed fervently that she would not die, or at least until her parents arrived. My prayers were not answered as I wished. She died before they arrived. I held her hand as she slipped away. I felt guilty and apologized to the parents that my prayers were un-answered. They assured me that I had done all I could do and they were grateful that their daughter did not die alone.

Sometimes, our prayers and best efforts do not get the results that we desire. Yet, by our presence, prayers and best efforts, we have “done all we can do.” Much of our efforts in many aspects of life, we don’t get the results that we want. Nevertheless, by our prayers and  best efforts we have “done enough” and “done all that we could.” Perhaps that is the measure of our lives. Have we “been there” and “done our best?” Perhaps this ought to be how we evaluate our lives. Not results, which are often out of our control.

Now that Aaron has died it is the job of everyone who knew the family to be present, praying and doing our best to walk with his family through this time of grief. We all also have an obligation to be present for Tara and Joe and those children who witnessed this horror.

We must be present and do our best. Then we will have done all that we could do.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#DumontNJ                                                               #AaronVasquez

# JoeRivera                                                               #TaraFox-Rivera

To read more of Pastor Mark’s writings, please order copy of his book:

ahttps://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Haste todo lo que pudiste…

Reflexiones ministeriales del lunes
Por el reverendo Mark William Ennis
2021 Blog número 48
29 de noviembre de 2021
Haste todo lo que pudiste…

“Usted hizo todo lo que pudo”, le dije a un caballero en mi congregación hace dos domingos. Estábamos hablando sobre una taza de café después de la adoración. Su familia se sentó a su alrededor. El hombre, al borde del Día de Acción de Gracias, estaba afligido por la muerte de un niño de catorce años que era su vecino y que jugaba deportes con sus hijos. Joe, el miembro de la iglesia con el que estaba hablando, era un entrenador que administró RCP al niño que se derrumbó y murió en última instancia.

Joe se sentía un poco culpable porque el niño no vivía a pesar de sus esfuerzos.

Tara, su esposa y una enfermera entrenada, rápidamente corrió a la escena. Ella hería a todos los niños cercanos afuera para un círculo improvisado de oración como Joe, y luego los EMT que respondieron lucharon para salvar la vida del niño. Desafortunadamente, el CPR o las oraciones fueron capaces de salvar a Aarón de la muerte. Todos los involucrados tenían sentimientos de culpa y se preguntaban si habían hecho lo suficiente. Todos necesitaban seguridad.

He estado en situaciones como un capellán del hospital. Una noche me senté con una niña crónicamente enferma, que también tenía catorce años. Mientras declinaba y sus padres estaban en camino, le pidieron a un capellán que se sentara con ella. Oré fervientemente para que ella no muriera, o al menos hasta que sus padres llegaran. Mis oraciones no fueron contestadas como yo deseaba. Murió antes de que llegaran. Sostení su mano mientras se deslizaba. Me sentí culpable y me disculpé con los padres de que mis oraciones no fueron contestadas. Me aseguraron que había hecho todo lo que podía hacer y estaban agradecidos de que su hija no muriera sola.

A veces, nuestras oraciones y nuestros mejores esfuerzos no obtienen los resultados que deseamos. Sin embargo, por nuestra presencia, oraciones y mejores esfuerzos, hemos “hecho todo lo que podemos hacer”. Muchos de nuestros esfuerzos en muchos aspectos de la vida, no obtenemos los resultados que queremos. Sin embargo, con nuestras oraciones y nuestros mejores esfuerzos hemos “hecho lo suficiente” y “hecho todo lo que pudimos”. Tal vez esa sea la medida de nuestras vidas. ¿Hemos “estado allí” y “hecho lo mejor posible”? Tal vez esta debería ser la forma en que evaluamos nuestras vidas. ¿Hemos “estado allí” y “hemos hecho nuestro mejor esfuerzo”? Tal vez esta debería ser la forma en que evaluamos nuestras vidas. No resultados, que a menudo están fuera de nuestro control.

Ahora que Aarón ha muerto, es el trabajo de todos los que conocían a la familia estar presentes, orando y haciendo lo mejor posible para caminar con su familia a través de este tiempo de aflicción. Todos también tenemos la obligación de estar presentes para Tara y Joe y para aquellos niños que presenciaron este horror.

Debemos estar presentes y dar lo mejor de nosotros. Entonces haremos todo lo que pudimos hacer.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#DumontNJ                                                               #AaronVasquez

# JoeRivera                                                               #TaraFox-Rivera

Para leer más de los escritos del pastor Mark, por favor pida una copia de su libro:

ahttps://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

Embrace

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Embrace
November 29, 2021

Read: Luke 15:11-24

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (v. 20)

“Letting go, and letting God” is a theme that has allowed us to consider what it means to let go of control, fear, bitterness, and expectations; loosening our grip on what’s in front of or behind us and resting instead in the palm of the one who promises to hold us there (Isa. 41:10). A great benefit of releasing hurt or the belief “it’s all up to me” is that our arms become more open to embrace the good. The father figure in the parable of the lost son provides a visual of this kind of release and embrace.

At his son’s audacious, disrespectful request, the father complied. He gave what was asked, accepting his son’s disregard for his very life. Scripture doesn’t tell us how the father spent the days following, but his reaction to his son’s return reveals that he modeled grace and mercy. If anyone had a reason to hold on to hurt and withhold an embrace, it was the father. Yet he chose not to give just a side hug or a pat on the back; he instinctively ran to his son and wrapped him in his arms.

May we also choose to release what hurts us and holds us back in life. When we do, we will be ready to accept God’s embrace of abundance as he rejoices over us. “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (v. 24). —Joy Petroelje

As you pray, praise God for his embrace in your life.

Lowering the Bar

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Lowering the Bar
November 28, 2021

Read: Philippians 1:12-30

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (v. 21)

Expectation is a regular part of life. While we know a new day is not promised, it’s likely most of us get up in the morning expecting to have a day much like the last. We might anticipate heading to school or work, caring for our young children or aging parents, or enjoying some flexibility in retirement.

The problem with expectations is when we use them as a weapon to hurt ourselves or those around us. We probably all know at least one person whom we would label a “perfectionist.” Perhaps even the person who looks back at us in the mirror. Too often a perfectionist’s expectations are not just lofty, they are unreasonable. They can cause the bearer of those expectations to miss out on great gifts in life—fun, freedom, joy, and gratitude. And they can wreck relationships.

So what do we do with too-high expectations? Lay them at the feet of the Savior. Perfectionism? Exchange it for grace; grace for self and grace for others. Perfection came as a babe and died on the cross for us in the person of Jesus. He raised the bar of grace for us so we can lower our personal bar of expectation.

As Paul reminds us in our key verse, our dying to self results in more fully living the life God intended for us. May we lean into the fact that it’s not all up to us. It never was. It never will be. Praise the Lord! —Joy Petroelje

As you pray, ask God to help you release expectations, and embrace his peace.

Overwhelmed

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Overwhelmed
November 27, 2021

Read: Psalm 61:1-3

Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (v. 2)

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, the first confirmed case of a COVID-19 infection in the United States was reported on January 20, 2020. The first year of the pandemic brought what felt like countless questions, unknowns, and restrictions, and I frequently felt overwhelmed. In my job, I had to establish, update, and require adherence to new health protocols in order to mitigate risk for employees, volunteers, and clients. As both a parent and a child, I needed to take into even greater consideration the health of my family. As a sports mom, a grocery store shopper, and simply a member of society, I had to do what was required in order to experience as much normalcy as possible.

Even while the pandemic is easing where I live, at times I still feel overwhelmed by the demands of life. I long to trade those feelings of being overwhelmed by what’s hard in my present to being overwhelmed by God’s goodness in my always. Some days I am easily capable of this, lifting my hands in praise and letting go of my troubles. Other days I struggle to accomplish this, and find myself on my knees with tears falling.

Our reading today is a reminder that whenever we are faint of heart from a hard climb, the rock of God’s refuge is ever under us. May we rest in that promise no matter what mountain we face. —Joy Petroelje

As you pray, thank God for his overwhelming love and grace for you.

Only One You

Our daily devotional is a re-post with permission from Words Of Hope. Come view our website at www.clintonave.org.

Only One You
November 26, 2021

Read: Psalm 139

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. (v. 13)

It shows up on Facebook, words laid over a flowered background: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” I have seen this quote more frequently lately and deeply appreciate it in a time when comparison is only a social media scroll away or a quick glance at the neighbor’s newest purchase.

Psalm 139 is one of my favorite portions of Scripture. King David’s praise for God and wonder at God’s knowledge (vv. 1-18) quickly remind me of how expansive and specific our God is. God knows what David will say before he says it (v. 4). He would be able to find David anywhere, literally or figuratively (vv. 7-10). And if David was overtaken by darkness, God would make the dark light (vv. 11-12).

There are days I need to be reminded that God knows me as well, and cares for me as deeply as he did for David. He cares for me not because of what I have achieved or possess but because he decided the world needed me.

God created you, uniquely, for his pleasure and purpose. And he placed you in and brought you out of the secret place of your mother’s womb at just the time he deemed the world needed the one and only you. God’s timing is perfect, and his creation in you is a gift to the world that no one else can be. You are valuable and loved! —Joy Petroelje

As you pray, thank God for making you uniquely, and loving you so deeply.

The Friendly Church