How Bad Is It?

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

How Bad Is It?
October 20, 2021

Read: Romans 3:1-20

No one does good, not even one. (v. 12)

I needed a dentist. I knew I had problems, but not how bad my situation was. Dental visits can feel for me like an audit of my oral hygiene habits. Despite having access to toothbrushes and floss, I have not made good use of this knowledge. Sure enough, the exam revealed things worse than I expected. The dentist and hygienist went over the issues I faced, but then offered something unexpected: a gracious way forward, not in judgment, but in hope. They said, “It’s bad, but we will help.”

Paul provided an audit of our sin in verses 10-18 with examples from Genesis to the Prophets of how bad we have become. Not even the Jewish people, who “were entrusted with the oracles of God” (v. 2), could justify their own salvation. Romans 1:18–3:20 lays out the case against all of humanity, and our passage today presses the point home, “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight” (3:20).

We are worse off than we think, but we are not beyond hope. The very next verse begins a new section where we learn the depths of God’s love for us in Jesus. Our sin exposes our complete need for a Savior. It’s bad, but God will help. He graciously shows us the way. Pointing to Jesus, John the Baptist said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). And that includes you. —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, contemplate your need for God and the hope he gives.

The Heart of the Matter

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

The Heart of the Matter
October 19, 2021

Read: Romans 2:12-29

Circumcision is a matter of the heart . . . (v. 29)

Many people bear physical symbols of their ethnic/religious traditions. South Sudanese Dinka scar the heads of young boys. Ethiopian Mursi women use small plates to stretch holes in their earlobes and lips. Hindus place a red ink spot (a bindi) on their foreheads. For faithful Jewish men, physical circumcision signified their inclusion in the covenant God made with Abraham (Genesis 17).

The early church was made up of people from both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. The Gentile converts were not circumcised. Jewish converts who were circumcised sometimes held a sense of special status. Some went so far as to demand that Gentile men become circumcised like them (Acts 15). Paul’s message is that no outward sign can save us. In fact, because circumcised Jews had been raised with the Law, they were actually more liable (Rom. 2:12).

There is no mark on our bodies that makes us a Christian. Even the sacraments of baptism and Communion are, in the words of Augustine, “visible signs of an invisible grace.” That’s why Paul said, “Circumcision is a matter of the heart” (v. 29). This was not a new teaching but the fulfillment of Old Testament promises: “God will circumcise your heart . . . so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart” (Deut. 30:6). Likewise, “I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD” (Jer. 24:7). Our salvation is a gift to be received. Thanks be to God! —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, ask God to give you a circumcised heart.

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Grandsons and Christian Mentoring

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2021 Blog Number 42

October 18, 2021

Grandsons and Christian Mentoring

My younger grandson turned two years old this week. In just a few months my older one will be three years old. It does not seem possible that close to three years ago my life changed for the better with the arrival of a grandson. I really didn’t think that I was old enough to be a grandfather.

Sometimes I don’t realize how much these two guys have changed until I look back at old pictures. When I view them, I realize how incredibly these to have grown and transformed. I remember the past and I see the present. What will the future of these two boys be?

I have helped them to walk. I have encouraged them to speak clear words and worked on table manners and polite speech. I am now helping parents to teach them how to use a water closet properly so diaper expenses will be a thing of the past.

How about their faith? Can I be a good and faithful teacher of the Christian faith in these boys? Will my faith and life, as imperfect as they are, be effective in drawing these two in the Christian faith, life and fellowship. Granted, it is not only me who will be working toward this outcome. Parents, Grandparents, and the congregational community will also be hoping for and struggling toward this goal. To coin a phrase, it really does “take a village” to help a child become a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Yes, we all will be encouraging the boys to come to worship. Yes, we are reading Bible stories to the boys. Of course, we are praying for, and with, the boys, and teaching them to pray. More than that, we are all striving to be good role models of what adult Christians act like and sound like. I am grateful that other will be showing these examples. I often fall short of acting as a Christian gentleman should act.

I know the past and I know the present of these boys. What will the future be for them? I don’t know. It is up to God. I’ll be doing all that I can do for a good outcome and I’m sure that God will be blessing our good efforts and correcting us when we are off course. The final outcome? Only God knows. I will work as if it is all up to me and pray as if it is all up to God.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#Grandsons                                                              #Discipleship

#ChristianMentoring                                                #Prayer                                 

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

Nietos y mentoría Cristiana

Reflexiones ministeriales del lunes
Por el reverendo Mark William Ennis
2021 Blog Número 42
18 de octubre de 2021

Nietos y mentoría Cristiana

Mi nieto menor tenía dos años esta semana. En sólo unos meses mi mayor tendrá tres años. No parece posible que hace cerca de tres años mi vida cambió para mejor con la llegada de un nieto. Realmente no pensé que era lo suficientemente mayor para ser abuelo.

A veces no me doy cuenta de cuánto han cambiado estos dos tipos hasta que miro las fotos antiguas. Cuando los veo, me doy cuenta de lo increíblemente que estos han crecido y transformado. Recuerdo el pasado y veo el presente. ¿Cuál será el futuro de estos dos muchachos?

Les he ayudado a caminar. Les he animado a hablar palabras claras y he trabajado en modales de mesa y en un discurso cortés. Ahora estoy ayudando a los padres a enseñarles cómo usar un armario de agua correctamente para que los gastos de pañal sean cosa del pasado.

¿Y su fe? ¿Puedo ser un maestro bueno y fiel de la fe cristiana en estos muchachos? Mi fe y mi vida, por imperfecta que sean, serán eficaces para dibujar estos dos en la fe, la vida y la comunión cristianas. Por supuesto, no sólo yo trabajaré en este resultado. Los padres, abuelos y la comunidad congregacional también esperarán y lucharán por esta meta. Para formular una frase, realmente “se necesita una aldea” para ayudar a un niño a convertirse en discípulo de Jesús

Sí, todos estaremos animando a los niños a venir a adorar. Sí, estamos leyendo historias de la Biblia a los niños. Por supuesto, estamos orando por, y con, los niños, y enseñándoles a orar. Más que eso, todos estamos esforzándonos por ser buenos modelos de lo que los cristianos adultos actúan y suenan. Agradezco que otros muestren estos ejemplos. A menudo me falta de actuar como un caballero cristiano debe actuar.

Conozco el pasado y conozco el presente de estos chicos. ¿Cuál será el futuro para ellos? No lo sé. Depende de Dios. Haré todo lo que pueda por un buen resultado y estoy seguro de que Dios estará bendiciendo nuestros buenos esfuerzos y corrigiéndonos cuando estemos fuera del curso. ¿El resultado final? Sólo Dios lo sabe. Yo trabajaré como si todo estuviera a mi altura y oraré como si todo estuviera a la altura de Dios.

#ClintonAvenueReformedChurch                         #ReformedChurchInAmerica                    

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#Grandsons                                                              #Discipleship

#ChristianMentoring                                                #Prayer                                 

Para leer más de los escritos del Pastor Mark, por favor pida una copia de su libro:https://deepriverbooks.com/books/the-circle-of-seven/

No Excuses

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

No Excuses
October 18, 2021

Read: Romans 2:1-22

Therefore you have no excuse . . . (v. 1)

One of the good manners my kindergarten teacher taught was to never point a finger at another. “When you do,” she said, “three of your own fingers point back at you.” When the more religious readers of Paul’s letter saw the list of sins and types of sinners in chapter 1, they may have been tempted to pile on the judgment, pointing out the worst in others. Author Steven Covey observes this human tendency, “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.”

Imagine their surprise when Paul said they are no better, without excuse, because they “practice the very same things” (v. 1). Perhaps they did not commit the exact same sins, but the essence of all sin is the same: sin exchanges the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:25). Sin is sin. No excuses. No comparing, as if to look at one convicted of a crime and say, “At least I’m not that bad.” If we think God will let us off the hook because our sin is “less,” we “presume on the riches of his kindness” (Rom. 2:4) and end up under his wrath (v. 5).

What can be done to overcome the finger-pointing mentality? An honest assessment of ourselves in light of the unmatched beauty, glory, and holiness of God. There we find how far we have fallen and how much we are loved. First John 1:9 promises, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, honestly confess your sin and be forgiven.

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Never Enough

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

Never Enough
October 17, 2021

Read: Romans 1:18-31

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie. (v. 25)

How did we become experts at sin? Paul described the path sin takes once we start down its journey. First, though, the majesty of creation is meant to reveal God’s glory to us (v. 20). We were created in God’s image, for relationship with God and each other (Genesis 1-2). Next, we rejected that glory, listened to Satan’s lie, and exchanged God’s glory for something else (v. 23). This is what happened when Adam and Eve ate the fruit God said not to eat (Genesis 3). For us, it might be money, possessions, relationships, experiences, or the like. Whatever we exchange for God cannot satisfy the God-created space in our souls.

Finally, “God gave them up” (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28) to increasing depths of sin. When we exchange God’s glory for a lie, we will never be satisfied. Sin is a cruel master that always wants more. Anything that replaces God in our lives will never be enough. Left to ourselves we descend into all manner of evil (v. 29).

That is hard to take. And yet, while “God gave them up” to all manner of sin, God does not give up on them. And he doesn’t give up on us. Paul later wrote, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift” (Rom. 3:23-24). We are completely lost, but Jesus is the Good Shepherd who looks for lost sheep (Luke 15:4). —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, ask God to remind you of his glory in Jesus.

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Not Ashamed

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

Not Ashamed
October 16, 2021

Read: Romans 1:1-17

I am eager to preach the gospel to you also. (v. 15)

I can still see the joyful smiles of the men’s choir from Teen Challenge, a ministry to young people in difficult life situations. They radiated our sanctuary with white-hot faith once each year, sharing testimonies and singing at the top of their lungs. Their voices reached a crescendo whenever they sang the chorus of a then-contemporary song: “No way, we are not ashamed of the gospel or his name.” A transformed life is eager to testify.

That is the essence of Paul’s declaration, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (v. 16). He once persecuted Christians and approved stoning them (Acts 8-9). That’s plenty to be ashamed of. Jesus found him and transformed him from a persecutor to a preacher. That’s why he felt an “obligation” and was “eager to preach the gospel” (Rom. 1:14-15) to people in Rome and the nations beyond. He wanted all to know they can be like him: once full of shame, now redeemed by God’s grace.

In this letter to Rome, Paul spelled out both the complete lostness of human beings apart from God and the amazing grace that is available to everyone who believes in Jesus and receives God’s gift of salvation. It is for Jews and Gentiles, the religious and the not religious. We all need a Savior. In Christ, we all can have one. The good news is for everyone, “including you” (v. 6). —Jon Opgenorth

As you pray, thank God for those who told you the gospel.

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Give God No Rest

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

Give God No Rest
October 15, 2021

Read: Luke 11: 5-12

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (v. 9)

“Friend, lend me three loaves . . .” From within the house an irritated voice calls out, “Go away!” But the neighbor won’t go away. This guy is maddeningly persistent. His horsefly annoyance finally wears down the sleeper, who gets up and gives him some bread. It’s a funny story Jesus tells on the road to Jerusalem.

But it is also a painful story, because it flies in the face of our common human experience. Granted, sometimes our prayers are answered in wonderful ways. But sometimes we ask, seek, and knock to no avail. The sick person we pray for does not get well. The sick marriage we pray for dissolves in divorce. What Jesus says here about prayer seems to contradict our own experience.

I will concede that there does come a time when God makes it clear that our prayer requests will not, cannot, be fulfilled. But until God makes that clear, I will keep praying. I will keep asking, seeking, knocking. “You who put the LORD in remembrance—give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem,” said Isaiah (62:6-7). What a thing to say: give God no rest! But that is what I propose to do. If a grouchy sleepyhead will answer a midnight knock just to get some peace and quiet, how much more readily will God open the door to his children and supply their more desperate needs? —Lou Lotz

As you pray, keep asking, seeking and knocking for what you need.

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Life for All

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

Life for All
October 14, 2021

Read: Acts 11:1-18

Who was I that I could stand in God’s way? (v. 17)

Peter had some explaining to do. When he returned home with news of having baptized Gentiles into the church, some in the church were dismayed. They were Jewish people, after all, and Christianity was the fulfillment of the Jewish faith. How dare Peter disregard the sacred traditions?

However, as Peter told the story, it became clear to all that it was God’s decision to welcome Gentiles. Judaism was the cultural and religious tradition of all the apostles. It must have felt impossible to let it go. However, as Peter’s story reveals, sometimes openness to the movement of the Spirit means loosening our grip on our traditions, for the sake of extending our arms to others.

Judaism was both a faith and an ethnicity. With few exceptions, one was born into Judaism. The Spirit’s call toward embracing the whole world meant that Christianity could not afford to be an ethnicity or a culture. Rather, it must transcend ethnicity and infuse all cultures. Along with Peter, we are invited into a faith that refuses to be held captive by any one ethnic or cultural group, embracing and transforming all.

After this conversation with Peter, the book of Acts pivots: now the apostles travel to the ends of the earth, sharing the gospel. To fulfill this call to share the gospel, Christians are first called to let go of the need for our faith to fit neatly into our own cultural traditions and expectations. —Amy Curran

As you pray, ask the Spirit for openness.

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Made Clean

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

Made Clean
October 13, 2021

Read: Acts 10:9-33

What God has made clean, do not call common. (v. 15)

Today we join Peter in prayer on a rooftop in the city. It had been a weary day of travel, and Peter was hungry and tired. I have sometimes wondered if it was his hunger that caused Peter to see a vision of unclean animals, coming down from the sky!

Three times, this vision happened in the same way, and Peter was baffled. What could it mean? He had been a practicing Jew all his life. He would never consider handling that which was unclean. He didn’t have long to ponder, though, because God told him. The vision wasn’t just about meat, but about people. And it was repeated three times—it’s not as though the calling card was unfamiliar! Peter was called by God to share the good news of Jesus with the Gentiles. God was making it clear that the resurrection is not just for Israel, but for the whole world. This was astounding news for those who had always been “God’s chosen people.” God was doing a new thing: in Jesus, God chooses the whole world.

Along with Peter, we see the long trajectory of the Christian faith take shape, just as Jesus said it would, and as the tongues of fire foreshadowed. The Spirit is constantly inviting the church to open its arms wider and wider—to expand and grow through welcoming all people, even those who are quite different from us, into the wide mercy of God. —Amy Curran

As you pray, ask God to show you who you are called to welcome in Jesus’ name.

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The Friendly Church