The Spirit Intercedes: Romans 8:26-27

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Daily Reflection

During Lent, we reflect on Christ’s suffering, death, and glorious resurrection.  I often relate this to my own life journey.  I, personally, have experienced many times of great despair, emotional death, and glorious rebirth.  Throughout our lives, we will endure illness, broken relationships, financial worries, and death of those that we love.  Sometimes, we throw up our hands and think “I can’t go on!”  This is when we call out for God’s help.  This passage assures us that even though we may not know how to pray if we are willing and we believe, the Spirit guides us in prayer.  It is at these times that God asks us to turn over our lives and trust in God’s plan for us.  Is this simple to do?  No!  Look for the Spirit.  Listen for the Spirit.  Let the Spirit enrich your faith and lead you to God in prayer.

Once we become comfortable with the Spirit leading us to God in prayer, we can begin to feed our soul. We can laugh at ourselves and our lives.  We are restored. We can dance around the absurdity of life instead of being squashed by it.

Daily Prayer

Dear Lord, send your Spirit to guide us as we pray. Help us to see and hear your direction.  Let us feel your presence in our lives.  Amen.

~Denise Nickel

Return to Me with All Your Heart: Joel 2:12-13

12“Even now”, declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning”. 13 Rend your heart and not your garments.  Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

Daily Reflection

I’m sure that at one time in your life you’ve felt grief that was crushing and all encompassing. You cry, pray and try to carry on with daily tasks, but feel like you’re underwater. Feelings of loss are different for each person you grieve.  Therefore, I was stunned that this time my grief turned to anger: anger at the insidious disease you fought against, that separated us in the end; anger that I didn’t get to say good bye to the one friend I shared H.S., college fun, graduations, weddings, and then each other’s children with; anger I’d never hear the reassuring voice of my friend who knew me at my best and still loved me at my worst.

As I held this grief inside it ebbed and flowed much like the tide crashes onto the shore and gently rolls back out to sea.  What struck me was that my grief had turned to anger with God.  Why had he allowed this person to be taken? Why couldn’t he save him?  I still needed him in my life, as did his family.  I still grab for my phone on Sunday nights for our weekly “life catch up call“, but he’s not there and so the anger grows. This anger blurred all I had believed and had been taught about God’s comfort in times of hardship and sorrow.  So I took my anger and disappointment and turned away from God.  I was sad and lonely for a long time.  A good friend shared with me that I could keep being angry and alone, or let that anger go by giving it to God and letting him carry my grief. I understood in my head what she wanted me to do, but my heart still felt hollow.

Later that month my 11 year old son wanted to know why we didn’t go to church anymore and why I didn’t pray with him at night before bed. When I told him it was because I was angry with God because I had lost my best friend.  He looked at me and asked, “Do you think your friend would want you to lose God too”?   Suddenly I knew that although it would not be easy, I must return to God’s compassion and abounding love. I was quick to anger but God is not.  He is gracious.

Daily Prayer:  Help me today to remember that even in the pain of loss you are there and that I may “return” to you and feel your healing grace.  Amen. ~Anonymous

Hope Does Not Disappoint: Romans 5:3-5

And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

Daily Reflection

I fully believe God knows how many trials and tribulations one can humanly handle, whether this be on a given day or in a lifetime.  When those trials and tribulations present themselves, hope can seem to be the farthest away from our minds. Reading this scripture passage brings to light key words that continue to help me:  endurance, character, hope, and love.  God is accessible to us and can be a constant in our lives if we open our hearts and minds to the power of the Holy Spirit.  With God’s presence, I have endured many unexpected tribulations in the past few years in some of which my endurance and character were questioned and abused.  It was with the strength from God, my supportive family, friends, and church family, which in the past few months enabled me to finally have, see, and feel true hope.  God’s love and the new love from others in my life has poured into my heart in the best way possible.  Hope certainly does not disappoint – I now put hope in front of me.

Hope in Front of Me by Danny Gokey   https://youtu.be/O5GFiDdGGGM

I’ve been running through rain
That I thought would never end
Trying to make it on faith
In a struggle against the wind
I’ve seen the dark and the broken places
But I know in my soul
No matter how bad it gets
I’ll be alright

Refrain: There’s hope in front of me
There’s a light, I still see it
There’s a hand still holding me
Even when I don’t believe it
I might be down but I’m not dead
There’s better days ahead
Even after all I’ve seen
There’s hope in front of me

There’s a place at the end of the storm
You finally find
Where the hurt and the tears and the pain
All fall behind You
open up your eyes and up ahead
There’s a big sun shining
Right then and there you realize,
You’ll be alright

Refrain

There’s a hope still burning
I can feel it rising through the night
And my world’s still turning
I can feel your love here by my side
You’re my hope, You’re the light,
I still see it, Your hands are holding me
Even when I don’t believe it
I’ve got to believe, I still have hope You are my hope.

~Sarah Jane Berta

Psalm 51

You desire truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Psalm 51 is known as one of the 6 ‘penitential’ Psalms.

Lent is a time for reflection and release from all that binds us. Read it, pray with it and then write in your own words.

Shepherd Psalm: Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters; 3He restores my soul. He leads me in right paths for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff—they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.

Daily Reflection

The Psalm tells me that God takes care of me just as a shepherd takes care of his flock.  He protects, corrects and guides. He provides rest and refreshment. He comforts and gives me inner peace and hope. He will always be with me.

I worked with two people to create and build a successful start-up business, and after 18 years they showed me the door.  I was VERY angry with them. But a really good friend prayed with me and reminded me that God was in this.  It took me a few days to calm down, and a few more days to realize that God had rescued me from a very toxic environment.  Finally, after about ten days, I had an inner peace and an inner knowing that God was indeed in this.

Two weeks later I woke up thinking about a website.  I went to the website where I found a job listing that I just knew was meant for me at this stage in my life.  I have been thriving there ever since.  God is truly amazing and proved to me that I should never lose hope.  He does indeed protect, correct, guide, comfort, give inner peace, and provide everything I need. 

It is awesome to think that Jesus also prayed this psalm. He put his hope in His Father because He knew He was with him, even when he went to the cross.

Daily Prayer

Loving God, remind me to never lose hope and to remember every day that you are my shepherd. Amen. ~Evelyn Thiel

“Weekly Words of Wisdom”

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Now that we have moved to a completely virtual community, it’s more important than ever to make every effort to shore one another up. This is our call as Christians, Americans, and citizens of a broken and hurting world. As I mentioned in my meditation on Sunday, the worship and evangelism committees continue to marvel at the providence of God’s inspiration when we chose this year’s Lenten theme in January: “A Future with Hope”.

Mustering hope on our own is often much harder than when we hear or see something that reminds of God’s very active presence in our lives and in the world. When I was checking headlines on Monday some small little headline and photo caught my eye on PATCH, a NJ local news site. The headline read, “Did you see Monday’s rainbow New Jersey?” The subtitle read: “A break in the bleakness punctuated the skyline Monday night.” By Russ Crespolini, Patch Staff. There was a picture of a rainbow against a house or barn, and truthfully the rainbow seemed…a little washed out. In and of itself, we could say, “missed it, too bad” and keep clicking for more interesting things. But what tickled me was the brief article Crespolini wrote. It began:

“Hope” was how the photographer described the rainbow that punctuated the skyline in various points around New Jersey Monday night.” Instantly, my attitude when from ‘meh’ to YEAH! (The photographer happened to be his wife Geri.)

Yesterday one of our Deacons texted me this photo.

Evidently, they’re being ‘chalked’ all over town in Boonton. Both images are biblical; the rainbow is more obvious than what I see which is ‘stained glass’ on a sidewalk. As we seek to try to find this ‘new normal’ what can you do to spread the gospel of HOPE between now and Resurrection Sunday? The world is yearning to trust in the message of HOPE. I HOPE we are one of the first places people will turn to, to find the HOPE the world desperately needs.

With you in this,

Rev Jen

A Future With Hope: Jeremiah 29:11-13

11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,

Daily Reflection

The choir has an anthem that we have sung many times based on this passage. It was written by Craig Courtney in memory of a young woman who was shot and killed 3 months before she was to be married. Her family took great solace in Jeremiah’s words.

I have read many points of view on what these verses mean for Christians today and I think many people think it means God will always fulfill our wishes and dreams. What I take from these passages is that we will continue to have both successes and failures in life; good times and bad; but if we reach out to God at all times He will sustain us. God wants us to seek him in all things and at all times as we live our lives to his glory.

A particularly meaningful part of the anthem I referred to says, “I will bring you out of bondage, to the land I have prepared; I will bring you out of bondage, I will bring you home to me”. I feel a great sense of peace knowing that I can reach out to God at each stage of my life. May that be true for each and every one of us.

Daily Prayer

Heavenly Father; each day brings challenges in our lives. How we handle them makes all the difference. Thank you for being the guiding light that helps us find our way and gives us hope and a future. We need only seek you with all our heart and you will bring us home to you. Amen.

~Lisa Hordnes

New Heaven and a New Earth: Rev 21:1-4

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”

Daily Reflection

What a great vision that is!  There’s something compelling about it that draws us.  It speaks a deeply relevant word of hope to our sisters and brothers in 3rd World countries all over the globe, and it speaks to our own deepest longings.  Is there anyone on earth who wouldn’t like an end to death and pain and sorrow? We live in a world where pain is a universal fact, where tears come to everyone, where the mortality rate is exactly 100%. We know that fear and sorrow are major themes, that death and pain are here to stay, and that human life is a profound mixture of joy and sadness.  Still we can’t help dreaming, dreaming of a day when everything will be good and right and glad and beautiful. “A new heaven and a new earth”—that’s the dream.

In Joyce Carey’s novel, The Horse’s Mouth, there’s a marvelous picture of a half-mad artist, swinging from a high scaffold, trying to paint a picture of the Creation on the walls of a condemned building. What a wonderful image of our Christian hope and vocation: painting the new creation on a condemned world, knowing that even if the world were to pass away, the image would live, by the power of God.  “I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away….And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down…from God….and I heard a loud voice saying, “See, I am making all things new…!” (vs. 5) We are called to live in the world with that kind of vision, seeing our world in the light of God’s new creation, living in the faith and hope that says, “Yes! Our God IS making all things new, even now!”

Daily Prayer

Lord, may it be so, and may we live in that hope. Amen.

~Sherm Skinner

For God So Loved: John 3:16

16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Daily Reflection

Like some of you, I can remember a time when, at any public event—a parade, a baseball or football game, a road race, a speech—someone would be shown in the background with a sign that simply read: “John 3:16.” I guess they hoped that we viewers would then be motivated to look up that verse and explore how we could get on board and be saved. I’ve often wondered how well that worked but you have to hand it to them, they persisted.

Our good news is that we are saved by the grace of God and in the belief that Jesus died for us. Imagine having such hope in the human race that you would be willing to make such a sacrifice.

I imagine God filled with the hope that we would embrace the teachings of love and forgiveness so completely that we would end our bickering, be more tolerant of one another, and practice love in any way we can.

Because God loved us so much that he sent His only Son for us, we persist in our faith.  We read the word, we do good works, we pray for guidance, forgiveness, and strength, and we worship in community. 

We are hopeful that our prayers will be answered and our sins always forgiven and that we will find strength in one another. We are hopeful that together we can create a world that embraces Jesus and his teachings. And when we falter, we need only to look to God’s light to know we are saved.

Daily Prayer

Today, I live in hope. I look toward the light and I thank God with all my heart for giving me his most precious Son. Amen.

~Connie Kelly

A Future With Hope: Jeremiah 29:11-13

11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart,

Daily Reflection

My senior year of high school was difficult. It was a time of identity searching in which I felt lost and insecure in my plans for the next four years and the rest of my life. I had put an immense amount of pressure on myself to find the perfect college, so much so that I ultimately became disappointed about where I ended up. I picked out every flaw and regretted my decision. This was a destructive pattern of thinking that I think many of us have experienced. So often we lose sight of God’s plans for us and forget to call upon him. It took a semester of negativity and doubt for me to be drawn to a yellow sticky note tucked inside the cover of my Bible. Rev Jen had given me the note during the college admissions process that said “Jer. 29:11-13.” Finding this sticky note was God’s way of responding to my prayers. I could feel God’s presence while reading this verse. It brought me comfort and reassurance that my choice of college and career path was the right one.

It is so easy to lose sight of God’s plans for us. We are so quick to assume that God does not hear our prayers when we do not see immediate results in our lives. But Jeremiah 29 reminds us that he is always there for us to seek. His plans for your future may not be the perfection that you are seeking or the outcome you are expecting, but they will put you on the right path and provide you with a future with hope.

I challenge you to think of a time that you felt lost and uncertain of God’s plans for you. Now consider how God’s presence in your life changed your perspective and gave you hope for your future.

Daily Prayer

Loving God, we ask that you help us seek you with all of our hearts. May you continue to hear our calls in times of uncertainty. Help us to feel secure in your plans for us and let our futures be grounded in hope and love. Amen. ~Amanda Roberts