Our First Elder-Driven Daily Devotion

Our First Elder-Drive Daily Devotional

We claim no originality for these devotions. One of our elders searches various sources and finds a daily devotion. Consider this a gift from Clinton Avenue Reformed Church: www.clintonave.org.

This Is the Day

When negative things happen to us, no matter how much we yell and scream, murmur and complain. it’s not going to make anything better.  We might as well keep our peace and stay happy.

Life is flying by, so don’t waste another moment of your precious time being angry, unhappy, or worried.  David tells us “this is the day” in which we should rejoice and be glad (Psalm 118:24).  He didn’t say. “Tomorrow or next week.”  No, he said, “This is the day.”  This is the day that Gods wants you to choose to be happy.

James 4:13-14New King James Version (NKJV)

Do Not Boast About Tomorrow

13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will [a] go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; 14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.

Pearl Harbor Lessons

Blog Number Forty-Seven

Yesterday was the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was a day that I have read about and seen movies about, but of course never experienced. I can’t imagine the fear of those brave men and women who lived through that attack and those citizens who had family members at Pearl during the attack. In an instant our nation was thrust into war and all that went with it; rationing, separations, injuries and many deaths.

Ultimately our nation prevailed in the war because our nation went “all in” and we were willing to risk deprivation, torture, injury and even death in order to achieve victory. An all out effort got results.

The early Christian Church endured similar suffering. The early Christians endured deprivation, imprisonment, torture and death. Despite all of this, the church grew. An old saying used to describe this era of church history is “the blood of the martyrs watered the seeds of faith.”

For the sake of our Lord and the church what are we willing to give up? Would we be willing to suffer economic deprivation, imprisonment, torture or death? If we are to prevail in our faith let learn lessons from our forbearers of World War II and our ancestors of faith. If we truly go “all in” and are willing to sacrifice all I bet our examples of faith will affect those around us and our churches will be strengthened. Are we willing to live by our ancestors example this advent?

The Real Message of Advent: Accountability

I recently saw the movie “This property is condemned” with Natalie Wood and Robert Redford. It was a movie that I had never heard of but thoroughly enjoyed. Set in the depression area south, Robert Redford plays the role of a railroad man who comes to a small impoverished town who must lay off a dozen railroad workers. This, of course, has a devastating effect on individuals, families, and the entire town. Of course, many folks in the town are not happy.

The laid off workers do not take this message well, as we could understand. One evening they attack him and beat him rather badly. Such a gesture, of course, will have no positive effect. The workers will be laid off whether or not the messenger is beaten.

How often do we shoot the messenger when we don’t like the message? Herod, and especially his wife, did not like the message of John the Baptist and he was killed. The temple hierarchy did not like the message of Jesus and made sure that he was killed as well. We tend to not like the messenger who brings us bad messages.

The message of advent is one we do not want to hear. In our culture advent has become pre-Christmas. The real message of advent is the message of John the Baptist telling us that judgment day is coming. The message of advent is really that Jesus will come again in glory. This time he will come in judgment judging both the living and the dead. That is not a good message to hear. It ought to strike fear in all of us. When Jesus returns, we will answer for what we have done and what we have not done.

Advent is really about judgment and accountability. Let us live in ways that will make us unashamed when we face the final judgme

Baby Jesus Has A Home

Blog Number Forty-Five

Baby Jesus has a home!

Eight years ago I was a little astonished when I came to Bergenfield. We did not have an outside nativity. Instead we had two lighted angels holding trumpets. Now I have nothing against angels but they are hardly a substitute for Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Several years ago a congregational family contributed an outdoor nativity to us. Since then, the Holy Family has sat outside to let the neighbors know that there is more to Christmas than Santa and the elves. The nativity has been a very good witness. I was always a little disappointed that although we had the nativity characters we did not have a stable for them.

This year another family in the church contributed a stable. The Momma of the family supervised as she got her boys to build one. Momma dropped it off today and she and I assembled it, arranged the figures and even highlighted it with a spotlight! It is a wonderful addition to the outside of our property. Jesus now has a home.

How about our homes and hearts? Does Jesus have enough of a place in them? Is our Christmas different from people of the world? Do we act more Christ-like than our secular neighbors? Do we think, feel and act differently than the neighbors for whom Christmas is only Santa?

As Jesus’ people let us make sure that we really act so that people can tell the difference between us and the people of the world.

A Dream

I had a dream last night. In this dream I was the painter in a resort. The resort looked like it might be on an island near an ocean. I was busy painting walls when I was told that a major storm was coming and that we needed to “shelter in place.” I continued to paint as employees scrambled to prepare the resort for the storm that was coming.

Finally the furniture was stowed and the people in the shelter waiting for the storm to arrive. I continued to paint under a sunny sky. Managers were telling me to stop painting and to shelter. I was telling them that I would shelter when the storm came. Until then I was there to paint and I would continue to paint.

They told me to shelter but I continued to paint. We had a major disagreement as to what our mission was. They felt that the mission was to huddle for fear of a storm that had not yet arrived and my belief was that the mission was to paint.

What does this mean? I think a few things:

  • Let us not forget what our mission is. In this dream mine was to paint. What is our goal as congregations? Is it missions and discipleship? Let us no loose focus on our mission.
  • There is a time when we face real storms but there are times when there really isn’t a storm but we think there is. We need to discern what storms are real and which ones exist only in our minds.
  • Is painting really what needs doing? It is nice to keep focused but with a storm coming is painting really a priority?

The worries we have. Are they real or invented? The priorities we set. Are they the correct ones? Let us be persistent as we work but let us make sure that the work we do is the correct work.

Thank You, Millennials!

Three wonderful Millennials rescued me from my ignorance. My cell phone has been dying. Recently people have been complaining that they “had trouble” hearing me on the phone. This annoyed me. My phone was only one year old. Surely a fourteen-dollar phone should last longer than a year. This reminded me that one year ago my last fourteen-dollar phone stopped working after only one year. Maybe fourteen-dollar phone only last one year. Planned obsolescence perhaps?

What I needed was a phone that I could place my old SIM card into and continue with my current plan on a new phone. I carefully did my web research as to what phone would fit my desires. I became completely confused. Finally I decided to go to the big box electronics store and look the phone over myself.

After a bit of time facing Jersey traffic and navigating a crowded parking lot I was in the store and looking over what seemed like millions of phone options. I was more confused than ever. The employees in the department were all busy. I flagged down another employee and was told that it wasn’t his department. I was ready to leave for home with my old phone in despair when three young men arrived to look over the latest “smart” phones. They appeared to be high school aged.

In desperation I asked them for help and explained what I was trying to do. In an instant they led me to an aisle (not the one that I had been looking at) and began to explore options. They held up one phone (the same fourteen dollar phone that I now had) and told me never to buy that brand. They called it a word that I won’t repeat. I felt stupid.

Within a minute or two they handed me a phone whose specs they had examined and told me that this phone should last “a lifetime.” I wondered whether it was their lifetime or mine. I thanked them and they walked away. This phone cost me thirty dollars. I guess that is not a lot for a “lifetime.”

Life’s lesson: don’t ignore our youth for a moment. The moment we ignore a generation, we take the first step toward extinction. Thank you, boys. I owe you.

“The Bad Kid’s List”

Never in all my life was I on Santa’s bad list. I received presents under the Christmas tree each and every Christmas. I feel sorry for those who got on the bad kids list and got no presents. I like the system of the good kids getting rewarded and the bad kids getting nothing. There is a certain justice to it.

Jesus confuses me. At times he seems to be the opposite of Santa Clause. Do you notice some of the contrasts?

Santa lives in a mansion and leaves it for one day each year. Jesus lived in a mansion and left it for all thirty-three years of his life. Magical animals transport Santa and Jesus had to walk. Santa comes to nice warm houses and Jesus came to a really cold stable.

I believe that the two most significant contrasts are:

  • Santa brings material things that will break and be forgotten while Jesus brings us the offer of relationship that can last forever.
  • Santa comes to the good kids (no matter how we define good and to promise of tomorrow’s actions) while Jesus comes to the bad kids to help them become better. Santa is concerned about yesterday’s behavior and Jesus looks to the future.

If you want something that lasts forever that will make you a better person, choose the gift of Jesus, not Santa. Jesus is the gift that lasts forever.

You are only as good as your last mistake. Really?

A friend of mine recently told me the philosophy that she learned from years of working in the corporate world: “You are only as good as your last mistake.” If this were true, I wouldn’t last long in the corporate world. I average about three mistakes in every fifteen-second cycle.

I’m grateful that God treats us a bit differently. God is constantly working not to view us by our mistakes but to transform us from broken people of mistakes into whole people walking the road toward purity. We who strive to obey God are not as good as our mistakes. We are as good as God declares us to be. In response we strive to grow to be better. In short, we find redemption.

One of the classic Christmas stories that we grew up with is the “Grinch who stole Christmas.” In this story, the Grinch is not judged by the horrible deeds that he has done. Instead he finds redemption through the joyous Christmas music of the Who’s from Who Ville. He is transformed by Christmas and responds.

The world might view you by your mistakes but God judges us by redemption. As redeemed people we have the power to sing our songs of love that others might hear the songs and be redeemed. Who knows what Grinches might hear our songs, be redeemed, and join us in celebrating Christmas with “Roast Beast.”

A Year At Peace

My mother died one year ago yesterday. This was our first Thanksgiving since her death although she was unable to attend last year’s festivities as she was in hospice. People are now checking in with me and asking me how I am doing. I’ll try to answer that question.

I’m doing OK. It is sad that my Mom died but she lived into her 80’s and the Bible tells us that a lifespan is 70 years and if you are strong, 80 years. She lived a full life.

I’m doing OK. One of our jobs is to bury our parents. It is sad when we do that but it is part of life. The tragedy is when parents bury children. That is not right. Children burying parents is expected.

I’m doing OK. My mother was sick for 18 months. During that time we had plenty of conversations. When she died we had no “unfinished business” and no “I wish had said” moments. We had time to finish up our business.

I’m doing OK. It was hard to see my mother in such pain that cancer brings. I am relieved that for her pain is over.

I’m doing OK. In her later weeks and days I got to care for her and feed her soup. I got to do for her what she did for me when I was a child. I’m glad that I was able to return the favor.

I’m really doing OK. Cooker is now in heaven. She was related to, and served Jesus the Lord. Her place in heaven is secure. She now rests in the peace of the Lord Jesus. I couldn’t want anything else for her.

I miss her but I’m doing OK and she is doing great.

The Friendly Church