In this week’s episode Pastor Mark discusses the question of what it takes to be a Christian. A number of people have a number of definitions. What does Jesus say?

Pastor Mark is a Christian Pastor, author, blogger, and sometimes background actor. He brings all of his years of life experience to ask spiritual questions about the ordinary events of life.

Go to this link to hear the podcast:

A Promise of Welcome

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

A Promise of Welcome

By Amy Clemens on January 9, 2023

Read: Hebrews 4:14-16

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (v. 16)

A throne of grace. What a beautiful picture of the place our God reigns from, especially in our time of need. When Jesus died, the sin of all the world past, present, and future was swallowed up, instantly gone, forever forgotten.

Think about it for a moment: the same incredible sacrifice that gives us relief from separation and judgment offers God the same. Separation and judgment required much of God too—his holiness made the companionship and hospitality he intended toward creation from the beginning impossible. But when the perfect sacrifice was made and the curtain in the temple tore—from top to bottom, signifying no human had done it—the door to the throne room opened again, welcoming us to enter confidently, seeking to “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (v. 16).

This passage helps us understand the Father’s intent toward us: relationship, intimacy, hospitality. The throne room, a place of awe and holiness, beckons that we trust a big God and take him at his word. Our imperfection is covered. We are not looked at skeptically, the way the world has taught us to eye each other. That’s very good news for us—and for the God who longs to be present to us. —Amy Clemens

As you pray, express your gratitude to Jesus, who with his perfect, final sacrifice gave his Father great relief from looking at the sin of the world and bid us welcome to the throne of grace.

Careful of the Backstory

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

Careful of the Backstory

By Amy Clemens on January 3, 2023

Read: Jeremiah 29:10-23

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (v. 11)

Context is important. If someone shows up in the ER clutching his leg, screaming, the team needs to know if it’s a broken bone or snakebite. If a serial adulterer wants to marry you, the backstory better be illuminated.

Treating today’s passage without context is like treating a broken leg as a snakebite, or getting married without asking questions. Verse 11 appears on plaques, T-shirts, Bible covers, artwork. It’s often on the lips without the speaker being aware of the backstory. The promise is wonderful, but it was spoken over such tragedy. God’s people had failed miserably. They didn’t follow his law, didn’t listen to his voice, and their leaders were corrupt. In short, their society was falling apart. God’s word to them was that being taken as slaves to another country was literally the only way to stay alive.

Then, and only then, did he make this promise.

Why does it matter? Because knowing the heart of God matters. Understanding he is for you, even when tragedy of your own making unfolds, matters. Learning to trust him, even in the darkness when there is no light, matters (Isa. 50:10).

So, yes, trust the promise that he has good plans for you, but remember the backstory: a story of our God, shepherding those he loves to a place where they seek him with all their hearts. —Amy Clemens

As you pray, commit to God to understand the backstory—so you don’t cherry-pick his promises

Podcast on Amazing Grace


In this week’s episode Pastor Mark discusses the 250th anniversary of the hymn Amazing Grace, its history, why it was written and the impact it has had on our world.

Pastor Mark is a Christian Pastor, author, blogger, and sometimes background actor. He brings all of his years of life experience to ask spiritual questions about the ordinary events of life.

Go to this link to hear the podcast:

Two Hundred Fifty Years of Amazing Grace

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2023 Blog #1

January 2, 2023

Two Hundred Fifty Years of Amazing Grace

I don’t know any church-goer who does not know the hymn Amazing Grace. Perhaps every Christian, despite musical ability, has sung this hymn. Those who have not sung it in church have certainly heard it sung or heard it played on a musical instrument. It has a catchy tune, wonderfully comforting lyrics and it is simply enough to be sung by people who have no musical training.

Even the secular world knows this song. Susan Boyle sang it after her musical career began following her time on “Britain’s Got Talent.” Star Trek fans remember that Engineer Montgomery Scott played this song on the bag pipes in the second Star Trek Movie: “The Wrath of Kahn.” The occasion for Scotty’s performance was the funeral for Mr. Spock. I would speculate that this Christian song is the best know Christian song among non-Christian people.

The history of the writing of this hymn I have always found interesting. In brief, this hymn was written by Rev. John Newton. Newton was a priest in the Anglican Church. He had not always been a priest. For many years he had earned a living as a sea captain. He was not just any sea captain. He was the captain of a ship that imported black slaves from Africa to England.

While he was still a sea captain, he suffered a shipwreck but was rescued by a friend of his father. Both his father and the friend were also ship captains. John Newton was rescued but on the way home the rescuing boat rain into a bad storm. The storm was fierce enough to make the sailors believe that they would die in it. It was during the storm that Newton prayed for mercy. In doing so, he remembered his prayers from early childhood. His mother was a devout Christian and had taught young John to pray but she had died when he was seven years old. Following her death, his father had taken him to sea and that began John’s journey toward becoming a sea captain.

Newton’s prayer for mercy was heard and the ship survived the storm. This brush with death began his journey of exploring Christianity. Eventually he was indeed ordained and became a pastor and hymn writer. In this particular hymn, Amazing Grace, he contemplates on the amount of undeserved grace that he had received to get him from a slaver in dire peril to a minister with a  solid congregation running outreach programs for the unchurched.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

The premier of this hymn was January 1, 1773. He wrote it to correspond with his new year’s day sermon. Rev. Newton was not finished his work yet. In gratitude for receiving the grace he had received and in repentance for the time he spent enslaving people, he became active in the abolitionist movement in England. This movement was eventually successful as slavery was outlawed in England in 1833, a full thirty years before it was outlawed in the United States.

I’m sure that Newton never dreamed that his hymn would be so well know 250 years later. He simply did what he was called to do and did it to the best of his ability. Then he let God decide what impact his work would have.

What about the work we do? Will it be remembered 250 years from now? Maybe and maybe not. That is not for us to worry about. Our job is to live lives that please God and let God worry about what impact our works will have.

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #PastorMarkAuthor            

#BergenCounty                                                        #BergenfieldNJ

#AmazingGrace                                                       #JohnNewton

#Conversion                                                             #Penance

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


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Church on Christmas Day? You Have To Be Kidding!

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2022 Blog #51

December 26, 2022

Church on Christmas Day? You Have To Be Kidding!

A week ago a friend and ministerial colleague posted a New York Times article on Facebook that discussed whether or not churches ought to hold Sunday services yesterday because it was Christmas Day. Apparently a number of churches are considering not having Sunday worship because of Christmas. Christmas Day has not fallen on a Sunday in quite a number of years. I rather enjoyed going to church on Christmas morning on the occasions that Sunday and Christmas Day fall on the same day. When my daughter pastored a Lutheran church I enjoyed visiting her on Christmas morning. They held a communion service every Christmas and I really enjoyed it.

According to the New York Times article, those churches who were planning to hold worship on Sunday were doing so because it is Sunday and they worship on Sunday. Period! Why should they stop having Sunday worship because it is Christmas? An elder of mine who was raised catholic told me that when he was a boy, Christmas Day was considered a “day of obligation.” Christians were expected to go to church on Christmas Day, no matter what day of the week that it fell on. When did this practice fall out of being a common obligation?

The New York Times reports that Churches who are did not hold worship on Christmas Day were cancelling because of the potential for “low attendance.” When did that ever stop the church? As religiosity declines in the United States, many of us deal with low attendance on a weekly basis. When did low attendance ever stop us?

When my friend and ministerial colleague, Rev. Rhonda Meyers, posted this New York Times article on Facebook she wrote the following personal comment, “…But just as I once said resurrection prayers for a funeral no one attended, I will lead worship on the Lord’s Day even if there are few in attendance. What better way to celebrate the gift of the incarnation than to worship God with songs of joy and words of praise.”

Does large attendance really matter or is Christmas a “Day of Obligation” for Christians regardless of congregational size? I wonder if perhaps in the future, all congregations ought to consider worship on Christmas Day regardless what day of the week that it falls on.

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #PastorMarkAuthor            

#BergenCounty                                                        #BergenfieldNJ

#Christmas                                                                #ChristmasDay

#DaysofObligation                                                   #RhondaMyers

The Original Hallmark Movie: A Christmas Carol

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2022 Blog #50

December 19, 2022

The Original Hallmark Movie: A Christmas Carol

Despite angering a few friends who adore Hallmark Christmas Movies, I have written about my distaste for them. There is one “Hallmark-type” movie that I do like. It was written by Charles Dickens and is titled “A Christmas Carol.” For me, this is a Christmas Movie that is worth seeing. Over the years there have been many versions but my favorite version is the 1984 version which stars George C. Scott. Somehow Scott seems just perfect for the gruff Ebenezer Scrooge. As bad a man as Scrooge was, I can’t help but feel sorry for him and I celebrate the spiritual redemption that he received.

How can I feel sorry for him?

He is a victim of a harsh childhood.

Scrooge’s father treated him rather harshly. Scrooge’s little sister, when coming to pick him up for school, assures him that their father is gentler than he used to be. Scrooge’s mother is never mentioned. Was his father harsh because he was a widower? Dickens does not tell us why but clearly his childhood was not pleasant.

Should we not feel badly for those who have had rough childhoods?

Scrooge is grieving.

The person that Scrooge loved most in life was his sister, Fran. Fran died in childbirth, giving birth to Scrooge’s nephew, Fred. Does her death remind him of the death of his mother? Were these deaths unresolved for him? He stayed away from his nephew Fred because he reminded him of his sister.

Should we not feel badly for those who grieve?

Scrooge is lonely.

When we come to meet Scrooge in the movie, he is already alone. His parents have died and his sister is also dead. Years earlier, the woman to whom he was engaged to be married, broke the engagement. Scrooge is left alone in the world except for his nephew whom he avoids.

Should we not feel badly for the lonely?

So why did Scrooge become such a monster. Many folks have been abused, grieved, and been lonely. Not everyone under these circumstances become ruthless monsters who like Scrooge, care nothing about the lives of others. Many people overcome such hardships and become rather compassionate. Usually because they have outside mentors and role models. We can only guess why he did not have resiliency. I suggest that this was because he had no Christian mentor. He knew nothing of God or Christian living. Christmas was not a celebration for him. He did not worship God and so had nothing to celebrate at Christmas. It took the intervention of four ghosts to show him what he once was and what he could become. I can’t help but wonder if he could have spent a lifetime as a compassionate man if only a Christian mentor had been there for him.

Let us who are Christian keep the world from creating other Scrooges. Let us be there for the abused, the grieving, the lonely. Let us show them the Fruit of the Holy Spirit so that they may have spiritual resiliency to overcome such hardships without morphing into other Scrooge type people. If we who are Christ’s people don’t teach the resiliency of the Spirit to those in need then who will?

Maybe this should be our resolutions for the new year; to be there for those in need so that future Scrooges could be averted. What a gift we can give the world!

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #PastorMarkAuthor            

#BergenCounty                                                        #BergenfieldNJ

#HallmarkMovies                                                     #AChristmasCarol

#EbenezarScrooge                                                  #HolySpirit

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

A Shout Out To Second Reformed Church in Hackensack

Monday Ministerial Musings

By Rev. Mark William Ennis

2022 Blog #49

December 12, 2022

A Shout Out To Second Reformed Church in Hackensack

Every year many churches puzzle over how to get neighbors to come and visit for Christmas services. For a large number of churches, few visitors arrive. Many church have simply given up and stop trying to invite newcomers and simply hold Christmas services for themselves. Recently I saw an example of a church that did not invite people in to hear the Christmas story. Instead, the church took the Christmas story outside the church building and onto the church lawn where everyone could see it and participate in it. This church was the Second Reformed Church in Hackensack. I attended this event.

Outside on the lawn we were treated to a petting zoo. We also watched a Christmas play complete with sheep, goats, a donkey, and a camel. The church lawn was very crowded. Volunteers walked around with nametags, ready to answer any questions a visitor might have.

Other things were going on inside the church. Tours of the sanctuary were being offered. Crafts for children were set out in the church lounge. Of course, refreshments were offered. Hot Chocolate, donuts, coffee and candy canes were freely offered. Dozens of children were there. I don’t know how many of the kids were from the church and how many were visitors. It didn’t seem to matter to the volunteers. Each child was welcomed and not seen as a nuisance, but a person to be embraced and celebrated.

On the way out, I was intrigued to see direction signs in both English and Spanish. This old, wealthy and established white church was making major efforts to do outreach to new and culturally different neighbors.

I witness the church at its best on Saturday. I saw a church that didn’t wait for people to come in. The church went outside to interact with neighbors.

The church celebrated hospitality. All were welcome, including children, who are too often seen as annoyances instead of people to be welcomed.

The church made attracting new folks a higher priority than “soothing” current members. A church internally focused can never grow.

Second Reformed Church of Hackensack did it well. I am glad that I was a part of it. I’m glad that I brought my grandson also. He had the time of his life. I hope and pray that all of our churches will imitate Second Hackensack. This church got it right and I hope that we all will begin to likewise “get it right.”

#ReformedChurchInAmerica                                 #PastorMarkAuthor            

#BergenCounty                                                        #BergenfieldNJ

#LiveNativity                                                             #ChristmasPlay

#Hospitality                                                               #SecondReformedChurchHackensack

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

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Listen to the Elderly

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

Listen to the Elderly

By Lou Lotz on December 6, 2022

Read: Luke 2:25-38

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel. (v. 25)

Anna and Simeon were old. They were past the age of working, managing a household, or taking care of children. Instead, each in their own way, they devoted themselves to God, testifying to others of God’s goodness and faithfulness.

At times, it can be hard for older people to see their value when they can’t do what they used to. There is another, better way to think about old age. Psalm 92 was written long ago, but it describes people you and I know today: “The righteous flourish like the palm tree . . . They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green” (vv. 12-14). Still bearing fruit in old age. Still fresh and green—that’s how I want to be. In old age we may have to live differently, but we don’t have to live less.

We may admire the enthusiasm of youth, which bubbles over like champagne. But from the elderly we can gain deep wisdom that has been aged in casks of experience. There were a lot of eyes in the temple that day, but only old eyes—Anna and Simeon’s eyes—saw the holy child for who he was. —Lou Lotz

Today’s Activity: If you are younger, spend time with an older person. Send a note, make a call, or plan a visit. Ask questions and listen to the answers. If you are older, reflect on how you have seen God’s faithfulness over your life and share your testimony with a younger person.


In this week’s episode Pastor Mark recalls the communion celebration he experienced on the Sea of Galilee on his recent trip to the Holy Land and what our communion-ware says about our image of Jesus and his teachings.

Pastor Mark is a Christian Pastor, author, blogger, and sometimes background actor. He brings all of his years of life experience to ask spiritual questions about the ordinary events of life.