God of Providence

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

God of Providence
September 29, 2020

Read: Genesis 22:1-14

So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” (v. 14)

These words translate a name of God that you may sometimes sing about: Jehovah Jireh, your Provider, whose grace is sufficient for you. What Abraham now learned about God was what Hagar had learned earlier, but here the focus is even sharper. This is a God of seeing and foreseeing, vision and provision. Hagar knew him as El (God); Abraham, drawn into the center of the covenant plan, knew him as Yahweh (the Lord). Yahweh, who sees the end from the beginning, provided the lamb as a substitute for Isaac (v. 8), just as he was going to provide “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) as our substitute.

At the crucial moment Abraham saw, caught in a bush, the creature that should die in Isaac’s place. We are told later in John’s Gospel (8:56) that he also saw “the day of Jesus,” and was glad. Was this the moment? Was it a kind of double vision, so that seeing the ram in the thicket he also saw beyond it, in some far distant future day, the Christ on the cross?

It was the all-providing God he saw at work; for if this God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). —Michael Wilcock

As you pray, thank God for that all-embracing gift.

“We live in the worst times ever.”

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 33

September 28, 2020

“We live in the worst times ever.”

An individual recently told me that “we live in the worst times ever.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I certainly agree that we are in difficult times. I have never seen a disease spread so quickly in my lifetime. Certainly, forty years ago we had the AID’s epidemic. People contracted it and died quite quickly. Yet, that disease was not air-borne and remained outside the general population. We live in difficult and scary times but I don’t believe that we live in “the worst time ever.”

My grandmother was a young woman of 18 when the flu of 1918 struck the world. Our living conditions were, for most of us in that era, far different than they are today. Likewise, our medical knowledge and techniques were primitive compared to our modern medicine. As bad as Covid-19 is to us, the flu of 1918 was far worse.

In the last 100 years, the population of our nation has tripled. It was 103 million in 1918. Now it is 331 million. In 1918, our country saw 675,000 deaths from the flu. At this point, the United States has seen 200,000 deaths. All other things being equal, with a population size that tripled, I would expect our death rate to be three times that of that of 1918. Instead, it is only one third of the number. Do you still think that we live in the worst times ever?

We have been forced to self-quarantine. It is relatively easy for us to do that. Many of us live in one family houses. Even those in apartments or two-family houses can quarantine. In 1918 relatively few people could do this. Many people lived in tenements. Some were so overcrowded that dozens of people would co-habitat and sleep in shifts, sharing the same mattresses and sheets. Literally, in some tenements, hundreds of people would share lavatory. Social distancing was not something that these folks were able to do. Do you still think that we live in the worst times ever?

I am certainly not minimizing how bad Covid-19 is. Our lives have been very different during the last six months. Covid-19 has forced us be distant and alter our lifestyles. That makes us uncomfortable. I don’t like it. Also, many of us know people who have died from Covid-19. As many of you know, two of my beloved mentors died from this illness. I am still sad because of this. And yet, do I live in the worst time ever? Not even close!

Our ancestors endured worse conditions than we live in. If you are really upset by our living conditions, would you rather have lived in 1918? Probably most of us would not. Despite what is going on in our lives. Let us be grateful that we live when we do with the medicine and living conditions that we have. Compared to the centuries that before us, we live in about the best times ever. Let us all be thankful to God and live like grateful people.

A Role Model of Class, Persistence and Justice

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 32

September 21, 2020

A Role Model of Class, Persistence and Justice

Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died this week. There are those who celebrate her decisions and those who condemn them but this is not about politics. This blog is about character.

I confess that despite her long and distinguished career I really knew little about her until I saw the movie “On The Basis of Sex” two years ago. I really was impressed by the portrait painted of this amazing woman. She is a role model for all of us.

Justice Ginsburg was born in 1933 to Jewish parents in Brooklyn. Few people prospered in that era and there was tremendous anti-Jewish sentiment in a city that was politically dominated by Christians. She was also female in a world dominated by men. Ruth, however, did not see these as obstacles. She viewed them as bumps to overcome.

After marrying and having a child, she and her husband both enrolled at Harvard Law School. He was a year ahead of her. She, and the few other women at the school were not greeted warmly by many of the other students and faculty. The women were actually told that they were “taking seats away from men.” She persisted.

Tragically, her husband became ill with cancer while still in law school. She sat in on his classes, took her own classes, taught him his classes at night and cared for her child. Can you image? I can’t. She could have played a “victim” and asserted that pursuing a law degree was too much given her circumstances but she did not. She simply worked harder.

In the years to come, Ruth became a strong advocate for women’s rights, arguing several times before the Supreme Court. She had a reputation for always keeping decorum despite instances where she was greatly provoked. As she explained it, her mother always told her to act “like a lady.”

Having class, persistence in overcoming obstacles, and fighting for justice for all are the traits that I admire in her, but often fail to live up to. I believe that these traits are worthy for us as individuals, and the church to be striving toward. Too often we give in to impediments, watch out for ourselves instead of seeking justice for others, and forgetting to act well, as we are role models for others. What a different world we would live in if our churches and all people would strive for these things.

I thank God for the role model he gave us in justice Ginsburg and pray that I, you, and our congregations will draw closer to her example.

R & R a.k.a. Sabbath

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 31

September 14, 2020

R & R a.k.a. Sabbath

I am back from my vacation and now my weekly blogs have begun again. I hope that you missed reading them as much as I missed writing them.

I never had the honor of serving in our military but I have the pleasure of knowing a great number of veterans as well as a few active duty soldiers. I asked a few of them what their greatest memory of military service is often they tell me, “R&R,” that is “Rest & Relaxation.” This is the time when they are allowed to take a vacation from their duty and simply relax and have their bodies and minds reset from their daily duty and grind.

This reminds me of what God requires of his people. In his commandments he requires a sabbath day, one in seven in which we will not work. How many of us have taken such days. Often we congratulate ourselves and our co-workers for working too many days and too many hours. The results, however, wear us down and keep us from performing at our peak capacity. Rest is good for us; body, mind and spirit.

One of the positive benefits of the Corona Virus is that it is helping us to reset ourselves. Working from home has enabled many people to avoid stressful commuting, and to shorten the daily hours of their labor. In short, a slower pace has been very good for many people.

And yet, our corona-imposed sabbaths have given us a partial, but not the full blessing that God intends for us. The Sabbath that God gave to us is not just a day of rest, it is also a day dedicated to God. It is a day to be worshipful and thankful to God. Treating ourselves well, is good. We are, after all, God’s creations who deserve to be treated well. We would treat ourselves better if we would include God in our Sabbath. Do we only care for our bodies and minds during our rest or will we nurture our spirits as well?

May this time of Corona be a time to re-set from our stressful lives. Let us learn to have a slower pace, enjoy family and friends more, but let us not forget God. The more we worship him, and the closer we are to him, the deeper our spiritual reservoir will be. It is that reservoir that will help us to navigate the stressors of our lives.

R & R is good. Let us not neglect it but let us not neglect God in it either.

NY Mets, Baptisms and Confirmation

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 30

July 27, 2020

NY Mets, Baptisms and Confirmation

On Friday it finally happened. The New York Mets began their season. In this crazy time of Covid we all had to wait four months longer than usual to begin the baseball season. It was hard for some of us. The outcome was quite predictable: the Mets won. No, I am not being snobby now. Statistics bear me out. With 39 opening day wins and 29 opening day loses, their opening day winning percentage is .661. Every opening day we fans know that we have a good chance of watching a win. It is the rest of the season that is frequently a problem.

In their history the Mets have won six national league east titles, five national league championships and appeared in five World Series contests. Of these five they have only won two. I appreciate the Mets wonderful starting record but would trade it to have the Mets get into more post season games and win more of these games. It is good to start in first but it is far better to finish in first.

I find my frustration with the NY Mets to be similar to my frustration the mainline church that I have known all my life. We are extremely good at Baptisms, fairly good at Confirmations, but not so good at creating disciples who sustain. Since I can remember, parents have come to have their children baptized, promised the elders that they will be participating Christians, but quickly fade away. Likewise, young people promise the church at confirmation that they will be active in the congregation but they leave the moment they are confirmed. Even families leave left after their children are no longer in Sunday School.

Somehow we have not learned how to make disciples of our young people to retain them throughout their lives. We have good starts but in the long run, little results. I have prayed and thought about how to change this but have never found a way to reverse this trend. Perhaps we have been too quick to baptize and confirm. Maybe we need to require more and do more adult mentoring and discipleship building.

I don’t have the answer but many baptisms and few disciples is about as satisfying as a great opening day record with few World Series appearances to show for it. I hope that all of us who are disciples of Jesus can prayerfully consider how we can reverse this trend, it does not do the church of Christ any good to continue doing things as we have always done them.

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #ClintonAvenueReformedChurch

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #NYMets

#ChristianDiscipleship

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

What Is Your Sign?

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 29

July 20, 2020

What Is Your Sign?

“What is your sign?” is a question that I have been asked when meeting someone new. This question obviously refers to the astrological signs. I know a bit about these. My Godfather used to do extensive star charts and was always explaining things by astrology and where certain stars were at the time of your birth. I don’t know where and how he got so interested in astrology but I do know that it gave him a very fatalistic view of life. According to him, if the stars had dictated something there was precious little that you could do about it.

Several years ago, I counselled a woman for several session before she ended the sessions. She also believed in astrology. One of the issues that she and I dealt with was her constant criticism of everyone around her. When I challenged her on this, her response was always the same, “I’m a Virgo. We are very critical.” I was never, in the few times we met, able to get her to see that the stars did not control her. I could not get her to understand that she could change how she did things.

Our recent scripture lessons in church have included the writings of Paul in his letter to the early church in Rome. In this letter he describes that when we become Christians we are endowed with the Holy Spirit. This Spirit gives us the ability to change and to do new things. Yes, the pull of old habits die hard, but we are able, one step at a time, to remake our lives. This is a different view than that of Astrology or Fatalism.

It is never easy to change old ways and habits but these old trends are not set in concrete. No, our lives are not pre-determined by stars. We have the ability to grow and change if we are filled with the Holy Spirit. With God, everything is possible. Don’t let the astrologers fool you. Are you in a bad place? Don’t despair. This bad place does not have to last forever. Embrace the Holy Spirit and walk toward bright new tomorrows.

Maybe in the future if someone asks me “what is your sign” I’ll show them a cross and tell them, “the sign of Jesus.”

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #ClintonAvenueReformedChurch

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Astrology

#HolySpirit

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

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 28

July 13, 2020

What You Don’t See Can’t Hurt You?

I was told as a child that “what you don’t see can’t hurt you.” This was in response to my fear of my basement, where I was convinced a monster hid. This monster hid between the furnace and the hot water heater. My grandmother assured me that if I did not see a monster, there was no monster.

In hindsight I am surprised that my mother tolerated this opinion. Afterall, she was an RN who knew well what micro-organisms could do to a body. She knew that some of the greatest dangers to a person were things that one could see without a microscope. How many of us have suffered illnesses, not just from micro-organisms, but also toxins that humans have placed in the earth?

I recently read a story that the city of Paris has begun a project of cleaning canals. The project has begun with the St. Martin canal. The canal was drained and workers were horrified at the amount and type of garbage that was found at the bottom of the drained canal. There were bicycles, shopping carts, luggage and mountains of discarded plastic and aluminum cans. No one knows how many chemicals were placed in this canal, not to mention the other canals of Paris.

There is a debate in Paris as to how dangerous this polluted canal was to the health of Parisian citizens and some outcry that the canal was to be so polluted for so long. Many believe that many illnesses in Paris were caused by this lack of care of Paris’ great canals.

Let us all be warned. What we can’t see can hurt us. The earth that we have is a precious gift and each of us must be diligent in caring for it. When we do not, we only hurt ourselves.

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #ClintonAvenueReformedChurch

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Donoharm

#TestingGod

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

Do No Harm!

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 27

July 6, 2020

Do No Harm!

I don’t like restrictions. They annoy me. Yes, it is annoying that our climate of social distancing precludes us from reaching out and hugging one another. Yes, I miss leaning on a lunch counter and enjoying a diner meal. I even resent having to speak to the owner of the deli through plastic sheeting. And yet, I do all of these things because the last thing that I wish to do is to contract, and carry, Covid-19 to another person. I was taught that “do no harm” applies to every aspect of life. Those of us who strive to be obedient to Jesus, have an extra obligation to “do no harm.” Jesus warned the people that he interacted with that there are heavy consequences when we harm other people. For those in the Christian faith community, we have not just an obligation to “do no harm” but also to be obedient to Jesus.

It galls me, therefore, when groups, who claim to be disciples of Jesus, don’t take this ethic seriously. When I read in the media of large congregations meeting, despite local laws, and challenging these laws of distancing, I get angry. When I hear people, who claim to be Christian, insisting that they can ignore best practices because “God will protect them,” I bristle and wish that I could do something to confront them. When Christians act like this they put God to the test; something that the Bible tell us is wrong.

I hope that those without faith, when they see such reckless behavior, and actions that put God to the test, do not lump all of us Christians together. Most of us as individuals, as well as denominations, do not put God to the test. Most of us act responsibly for the sake of protecting our neighbors. This honors God.

Please, if you ever meet such people, ask them to mask and socially distance for the sake of others. Ask them in the name of Jesus, to stop putting God to the test. These are serious matters that effect our neighbors as well as our relationship to God. Please, please, please, let us do no harm and let us never put God to the test.

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #ClintonAvenueReformedChurch

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Donoharm

#TestingGod

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

The Reformed Church At Its Best

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 26

June 29, 2020

The Reformed Church At Its Best

On Sunday afternoon I had the privilege of spending time with a group of people from many area Reformed Churches. We gathered at Van Saun Park, a very beautiful park here in Bergen County, NJ and our purpose was to pray together. Of course, as Christians we are socially responsible. We used social distancing as well as face masks. We are faithful, and trust in God’s protection but we also do not test him by doing stupid things and expect him to protect us from our own stupidity. Jesus calls us to be faithful, not foolish.

So, what did we pray for? Protection from Covid-19? Prosperity? The reopening of churches? Members of a political party? No. We prayed for unity in Jesus between all races and colors. The official name of our gathering was, “Prayer Gathering: Heal the Land of Racial Injustice through Unity, Reconciliation, and Justice.”

This issue has vexed Christ church since its inception. The first Christians were Jewish. It was difficult to bring Greeks into the community when they practiced very different customs than did the Jewish Christians. Racial lines were also transcended. An early conversion story in scripture is that of the disciple Phillip who was transported by the Holy Spirit to meet an Ethiopian Eunuch who wished to understand the scriptures of Jesus. The two spoke and the Eunuch was converted and baptized.

Race and culture have always been issues in the church. Sometimes we have dealt with these issues better than others. Most people with good heart don’t wish to mistreat people of other races and cultures, but that is different than embracing other types of people, respecting them and seeing them as equals. In my lifetime I have seen a huge improvement in racial/cultural relationships, but we have not reached the Christ-like standard of full acceptance.

Until then, let us all pray daily for the healing of fractures and the coming of unity. Let us also work toward this end. As we have been embraced by God let us embrace one another.

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #ClintonAvenueReformedChurch

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #VanSaunPark

#Prayer

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

Juneteenth; Not Just For Black People Only

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

Blog Number 25

June 22, 2020

Juneteenth; Not Just For Black People Only

Last Friday much of the nation celebrated Juneteenth while much of the nation did not. Many of those who did not this holiday had never even heard of it. It really has only come to be known in the north about a decade ago. Prior to that it was a holiday most known among blacks in the Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma areas.

This past week in South Jersey I was at a bank where I was greeted with “Happy Juneteenth by one woman.” Another woman asked, “what is that and why are we wishing that to people?” The first replied, “Because corporate said to.”

I asked the second woman if she wanted me to explain the origins of the holiday but she declined telling me that it was a “black holiday.” I had a similar experience at a Wawa a little while later. It seems that for many whites, Juneteenth is a black holiday. I hope that we can change that perception and all Americans can begin to celebrate this day together.

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. We all heard of the Emancipation Proclamation. This freed slaves in territories held by the rebellious states. Unfortunately, the government had no way of enforcing it in territories out of federal control. Slaves received the news of their freedom only when areas were occupied by northern armies.

Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Grant on April 9, 1865. This, for most people is seen as the end of the Civil War. Fighting, however, continued after this date. There were other confederate units outside of Virginia. The war had not yet ended. Skirmishes continued in the west and southwest. It was finally on June 19, 1865 that Union Major General Gordon Granger and his troops arrived in Galveston, Texas. The remaining slaves heard that they were freed and had a beach party to celebrate their freedom. In my mind, this really is when the Civil War ended.

Throughout the generations that followed, black families gathered to hear the stories from the former slaves so that family history would not be lost. Young people, who were born after slavery ended, would know what there forebearers had endured. I think it is good to hear the strength of people who overcame such harsh living conditions.

Why do I want us all to celebrate this day? Because the Civil War ended and with it, slavery. They are both things that deserve celebrating. No, my ancestors were not slaves, but at least one of my ancestors fought in the Union Army to end it. I think that the 19th of June is something for us all to celebrate.

Juneteenth; it’s not just for Black people only.

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #ClintonAvenueReformedChurch

#PastorMarkAuthordotcom                                    #BergenfieldNJ

#BergenCountyNJ                                                   #Juneteenth

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

The Circle of Seven