Check back each day for a new devotional
straight from our pastoral staff!
Choosing the Goodness of God | Weekly Devotional
Walk to Breakthrough | Weekly Devotional
Never Doubting | Weekly Devotional
Of the Same Mind | Weekly Devotional
October 14, 2020
Choosing the Goodness of God
Psalm 1 (ESV)
1 Blessed is the [godly person] who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; 6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.
Choices. I want choices, but sometimes I hate having to make them! I have a feeling my girls and I aren’t the only family to have the same conversation that we did last night as it was getting close to dinner time and our group chat started like this: Me: Hey girls – how ‘bout we just go out to dinner tonight? I can meet you wherever by 7:15. Kir: Sure, where? Jesse’s? Bec: Ugh, they’re closed, it’s Monday. Kir: IDK what’s open. Ooooh…bring home Yanni’s gyros!! Kir: SHOOT – they’re closed, too!
Me: Dang. Bec: The Mill? Kir: YEEESS! Kir: oh.my.word. closed! Everywhere is closed... Zoe’s Kitchen? Bec: *thumbs down* Metropolitan?.... etc., etc., etc.,
On Sunday, Pastor Mark was talking about the goodness of God – and his final point asked the question: What choice will you make? Will you accept that God is good in the feast as well as the famine? Will you trust God or turn away? Press in or pull away? Interesting challenge – Even with regard to the character of God, I make the choice to trust Him or not. It is one of the great mysteries of our faith – that even when we don’t see it – He is working!
Reminds me of Psalm 1. In this Psalm, we see two people who each choose two different paths with two very different outcomes:
The godly person who chooses to meditate on the word of God and delight in everything God wants him to do and is always looking for ways to follow him more closely experiences joy, and finds continual favor with God. The godly are characterized by a constant sense of healthy movement and growth, habitually producing fruit in season, demonstrating an upward movement of growth and maturity.
The one who chooses not to walk in God’s direction, on the other hand stagnates and experiences a downward spiral which leads to death. Watch this – he starts walking in the counsel of the
wicked/sinner (most likely without even thinking…) but then slows down to stand/hangs out in the way of sinners and sits down in the seat of scoffers (those who mock God, His ways and those who follow Him!) Eventually, their inactivity causes them to wither and die.
Interesting to me that God always gives us a choice….and gives clear (though admittedly often hard to follow) direction on how to “choose life”. Notice that the godly is planted by streams of water. They aren’t haphazardly growing wild, but intentionally being rooted by the moving, life-giving water. So when the winds blow and the storms threaten to destroy, or when everything around seems dry, barren, hot and circumstances threaten to consume him, he can withstand it all for his roots are growing deep into the soil of God’s love and goodness. The one who stays in the Word, wrestles with the incongruities of the hard times and God’s faithfulness – even when it appears that God is absent or not at all good, and ultimately experiences hope, peace, fruitfulness and His tender hand of protection until the storm passes by.
According to Martin Luther, “no prosperity, nor adversity, not the world, not the prince of it can either take away or destroy God’s Word for it victoriously bursts its way through the poverty, evil report, the cross, death, and hell and in the midst of adversities, shines brightest.” We may not have the power to choose our circumstances, but if we choose to plant ourselves in the Word of God, drinking deep from the truths that constantly define who God is and stake our lives on the claims of the Holy Spirit to be near and within us, the light will undoubtedly break through and we WILL experience the goodness of God.
BTW- with regard to our dinner dilemma last night? Final choice: Grilled cheese, tomato soup and a couple rounds of Contract Rummy in our own dining room (always a win!)
October 7, 2020
Walk to Breakthrough
Lately, the Lord has brought me to Joshua 6 to show me something that I believe is really important during this time. Joshua 6 is the story of the Israelites, and the Walls of Jericho. To make a long story short, the Israelites need to get through the Walls of Jericho to defeat the people of Jericho. The walls are fortified and they have no way in. An angel appears to Joshua and tells him the instructions of how to bring down the walls. He tells Joshua to have the people march around the wall one time, for 6 days. Then on the 7th day, they should walk around 7 times and give a great battle cry after. Sure enough the instructions are followed exactly as presented, and the walls come tumbling down.
The story in itself is amazing, but I think there is something we can learn from the actions of the Israelites. The Israelites were not given these instructions from an angel, they got them from Joshua. But they believed in what they were called to do, so they walked. Imagine walking for 6 days and seeing no signs of breakthrough. I’m sure they were tired, confused, and maybe a bit angry. But they trusted, and they walked. Sure enough on the 7th day when they had completed their instructions, they found breakthrough.
I believe we are in a similar time. Walking for what feels like forever. Not seeing anything that we can see as progress. But doing so, hoping and praying, that it will lead to breakthrough. But the breakthrough we are seeking is revival. A revival that sees our towns, states, and country love the Lord like never before. We all want to see this. We all want to experience a great awakening within the hearts of everyone in this country. But it will not come without some work. We need to walk the walk that we have been called to walk. We have to love people how we are called to love them. We have to show the gospel and share the gospel with hearts full for the Lord. If we give our all to the Lord, and walk this walk, I believe we can see breakthrough. I believe we can see revival. But it starts with us. So pray for revival. Love God, and show His love to one another. And prepare for this breakthrough that could happen at any moment. We may be setting the groundwork for it, or we may get to see it come to fruition, but either way, revival is coming.
Rev. Jake Bunjo
September 30, 2020
Apostle Paul spent some years in prison during his ministry. We don't know how often he lived in prison and how long he suffered from not having well-deserved freedom. We DO know the reason, though. Not because Paul committed any crimes, but Paul remained in prison for doing God's work - spreading the Good News.
How would you react if you were in Paul's position? If you were wrongly accused and imprisoned, how would you respond to God and other people?
Paul passionately worked to spread the Gospel. He planted 14 plus churches. Perhaps, if the Jewish leaders didn't imprison Paul, he would influence more people to spread the Gospel, and he would start more churches in different places.
Why do you think God let Paul stay awhile in captivity, someone so faithful, passionate, and relinquish his right for the Kingdom's work? At first glimpse, it looks unfair. Perhaps Paul himself or his followers, found it difficult to understand. Maybe they thought that God should rescue Paul as soon as possible for the kingdom of God.
Indeed, God's thoughts are not like ours. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his thoughts than our thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Paul may have thought of the original recipients of the letter. Perhaps, Paul wouldn't imagine his message shared in the Bible throughout generations and generations, up to modern time believers.
However, God knew that countless Christians would be blessed, corrected, and restored by those four letters, for the duration of almost two thousand years.
How did he handle living in a cold prison cell during an uncertain period of time?
Based on his valuable letters, we see that he never became intimidated during his captivities. He never gave up doing what he could do to living out his faith.
I recently know that some of you go through the midst of turmoil that you can hardly understand in your logic. Maybe some of you feel like you are in captivity, limited in freedom, suffocated by any pressure you don't know how to handle. You may wonder how loving God lets you bear with the weight.
If so, would you please remember Paul and his reaction? Never doubting God and His character, he continually pressed into God.
We could do that, too!
God will appreciate you and your trust in Him.
September 23, 2020
On Saturday morning I went on a mountain bike ride with my friend Glen. He’s a great guy with a heart for others and we always have good conversations, even as we’re flying through the trees at 20 miles per hour.
We got to talking about politics.
We were trying to figure out, how do we embody unity in one of the most divided times in the history of our country? Although we never found the easy answer to the question, we seemed to come back over and over to the same theme; a radical love for God.
This week I was reading Philippians 2:1-13 as one of the lectionary readings and I was pulled back to my conversation with Glen. It seemed to speak so directly to God’s decide for those who tempted by division:
2:1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy,
2:2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
2:3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.
2:4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
2:5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
2:6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,
2:7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form,
2:8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death-- even death on a cross.
2:9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,
2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
2:11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
2:12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
2:13 for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
These very well-known verses begin and end in a very similar way. Paul writes that if we call ourselves Christians (basically), we must be of the same mind, having the same love.
This is tricky. What does that mean?
What is this “same love” that we’re supposed to be a part of?
Verses 3 and 4 tell us WHAT it is, and verses 5-8 tell us WHY!
We need to deny our own interests, and look to the interests of others FIRST!!
And we do this because that’s what Jesus did for us!
And verse 13 wraps it up, just like it opened:
“It is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”
The greek word for work implies working FOR OTHERS!
God poured Himself out to work in us, so that we could go out and work in others.
That is the unity that we are called towards.
That is the key to being unifiers in an age of division.
So God gave Himself for US, we must give ourselves for OTHERS.
So, this week, as you encounter things around you that seem to want to separate you from others; that want to create a world of US vs. THEM, let me challenge you think of these verses and be reminded that we serve a God who gave it ALL for us, so that we can give it ALL for others.
Be a UNITER not a DIVIDER.
That’s what it means to be Christian!
Have a wonderful week.
September 16, 2020
I love reading the gospels.
You can read them over and over again and learn something new every time.
What’s been standing out to me recently is Jesus’ interactions with the religious leaders of the time.
These leaders were known for, basically, following all the rules. They knew them all and followed them to a T!
But Jesus kept challenging them over and over again.
It seems like Jesus was teaching them that following the rules wasn’t enough.
Why isn’t enough to follow the rules?
Why doesn’t that make us “worthy”?
Why did the Scribes and Pharisees fall so short?
They did EVERYTHING right, didn’t they?
I mean, I grew up with a similar mentality.
I thought that as long as I did everything right, I would be safe.
I would be “in”.
So, really, I was a good kid.
I know it’s hard to believe, but I RARELY broke the rules.
I was very concerned about doing the wrong thing.
I was so worried about NOT going to heaven.
So I did my best to just follow the rules.
Like the Pharisees.
It wasn’t until I learned to wrestle with the rules, that I began to grow in my faith!
I like to wrestle with my son.
That has been our love language for as long as I can remember.
Now that he’s almost bigger than me, I’m regretting that this is our love language.
But every so often, we get into a good wresting match.
He’s a tough kid! He’s gotten so much tougher over the years.
It’s because of the wrestling that he’s grown stronger.
In our battles with who is stronger, he knows I am (for now), but he wants to push himself and he gets in the wrestling ring over and over.
I think this is what the law is all about.
I think that is what Jesus meant when he said, “You have heard that it was said… but I say to you…” (Matthew chapter 5 - in his sermon on the mount)
It’s in wrestling with the concept of, for example, “Do not commit adultery”, that we encounter our own hearts. We encounter our own mis-placed desires. We encounter something more basic, something more substantive. And we arrive, like Jesus taught, at the place of, “even if you’ve lusted after a woman, you’ve already committed adultery in your heart.”
What Jesus does, is force us into the wrestling ring.
Force us to wrestle with concepts that will STRETCH us.
That will make our hearts more pliable, and more willing to be molded in to Jesus’ image.
That’s the journey of a Christian.
Wrestling with, and growing together with our God.
In that journey, we can become more and more into the image God created us to be.
Have a wonderful week!
September 9, 2020
2 Chronicles 7:14
The expression “break glass” comes from the larger phrase “in case of fire break glass”. It means doing something to get yourself out of an emergency or desperate situation.
Did you know there is a “break glass” verse in the bible? It’s 2 Chronicles 7:14 “…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
These words were spoken to Solomon after he dedicated the Temple. God knew the Israelites (and us, too) were prone to take him for granted and cool off spiritually. He said when that happened, he would allow hard times to come. In their desperation, they were to “break glass”—meaning they were to humble themselves, pray, return to seeking God’s face and repent. When they did that, God would answer their prayers and forgive their sins and heal their land.
Our nation is deeply divided and troubled; we’re continuing to see violence and anarchy; the coronavirus is making everyone frustrated and frightened; politics is especially divisive. And that’s just the last few months. What about the explosion of pornography in the last 20 years and the numbers of abortions? The challenges are country faces can’t be solved merely through political means. It’s time to break glass—seek God for a spiritual awakening and revival. Revival begins in the church. It’s God’s people, you and me, not the culture, humbling ourselves, praying, seeking God’s face and repenting individually and corporately that we haven’t been the salt and light to our culture as we could have been. Judgement begins at the house of God.
So, here’s what I’m suggesting. Literally, do what 2 Chronicles 7:14 says: humble yourself which means getting under God’s authority and asking him to reveal any sin in your own life. Pray. Pray for yourself, pray for you family members, pray for your church and leadership, pray for your community and government. What should you pray for? Pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit (which is the definition of revival) for you, your family, our community and nation. See what God says to you as you pray and does in your heart.
But do something else. Get an education. The go-to guy for understanding what revival looks and feels like is J. Edwin Orr. He died in 1987 but you can find him on youtube and the internet has some audio files. I’m currently watching a series of 10 talks he gave on revival in 1981 at Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California. They are fascinating and encouraging.
If you are interested in praying for revival with other Christians at Immanuel, reach out to me. My goal is to create a prayer group that meets monthly specifically to “break glass” and pray for revival in our church, community and country.
Have a great week.
September 5, 2020
Prophets in the Old Testament often had bad news for the people. This week my heart is heavy, and in my heaviness, God brought me to Isaiah 58 to see the good news. I want to share some good but challenging news with you today from Isaiah 58.
This chapter is about those who are going through the motions of rituals and traditions, but have forgotten how to live for others. The prophet points out that not only have they forgotten others, but that they have begun to go through the motions ONLY to get God’s attention.
In verse 3 we read that they humbled themselves and fasted and yet they were frustrated that God did not notice their acts.
What God DOES notice is that they fast and humble themselves but sadly ONLY serve only their own interests. They fast, yes, but then they quarrel and fight. They humble themselves, yes, but then oppress their workers.
The ancient people of Israel, and I would argue Christians of today, are stuck in the same patterns of worship – Christianity has become something that serves them, rather than something that changes them on the inside so that they can be oriented toward “the other”.
Isaiah clarifies for them that the type of fasting God chose is one (v. 6-7) that loosens the bonds of injustice, that undoes the thongs of the yoke, lets the oppressed go free, that breaks every yoke, that shares bread with the hungry, that brings the homeless into houses.
Isaiah 58 goes on to give a description of what our lives would be like if we did (v. 10-11) those things instead of empty worship rituals. For example, if we remove the yoke from among us, stop pointing fingers or speaking bad things, if we offer our food to the hungry and seek to understand how to meet the needs of the afflicted, we learn that light shall rise in the darkness, and we put our trust in the Lord who will be our guide.
When we step out on faith, and live for others, the Lord promises that we will be like watered gardens, like springs of water whose waters never fail, the Lord will satisfy our needs in parched places and make our bones strong. I believe God then uses us to bring water to dry places, and light in the darkened places.
And for those who feel ruined at the present moment, due to covid circumstances, or from losing loved ones, or from disappointing life circumstances, take heart in this next part…
(v. 12) Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.
Isaiah 58 reminds us to make space in our lives for others, but most importantly, make space for a Sabbath, a weekly day, to rest with the Lord and to be with the Holy one. This week, my blessing/challenge for you is that you set aside your interests or distractions and rest in His presence. Then you will be able to see how the Lord delights in you, and how delight in the Lord. This refuels you to do what the Lord is calling you to.
September 4, 2020
We all need community. I’ve never been surer of this in my entire life. Back in March when quarantine started, we all realized just how quickly we missed one another. Yearning for the days that we could just be together, no matter the reason or circumstance. For me community is something I learned the importance of early on. Growing up an athlete, I learned the value of a team. I understood quickly that being part of a team meant putting aside my selfish desires to achieve a common goal. For a sports team that meant winning, but what is the common goal of a community? For a community like ours its pretty simple, to bring souls to Jesus Christ. We exist as a community at Immanuel, to make each other better, and to bring as many people to Christ as we possibly can. Simply stated, our job is to plunder hell, and populate heaven.
The importance of community is well known by now. I do not need to spend the majority of the devotional talking about that. But how we successfully create a community is what I want to focus on. And like everything in life, let’s look at Jesus to see how He lived, and how we can live like He did. Jesus had community, that is no secret. The 12 disciples accompanied Him almost everywhere. Offering support, and allowing themselves to be the continuation of His ministry. He knew the people around Him were important, and that is why he spent so much time with them. He ate with them, prayed with them, listened to them, and taught them. They were each stronger because they knew one another.
Immanuel I am praying that we can take up this same example. That as a community, we can be brought together by this common goal of plundering hell and population heaven. That we can love one another with a self-sacrificing love that the world does not see enough of. We are extremely blessed to have so many amazing people in our Immanuel community. Being a community does not mean we will always agree, it does not even mean we will always get along. It does mean that at the end of the day, we look on one another with love. We do what we can when our brothers and sisters are in need. And we pray for everyone as if we were praying for ourselves. I love this community, I feel so blessed that this is where God has called me. But I also believe that our best days are ahead. There is so much room for us to grow and become the people that God calls us all to be, as individuals and as a church. And I know we can do it Immanuel. So let’s join together, one church who loves Christ, and show everyone what true community looks like.
I will leave you with this. The phrase “one another” shows up in the New Testament 59 times. That shows how important community and fellowship are. But my favorite verse about community does not mention the words “one another”. But it is simple, straight to the point, and tells us what community is all about. It is Proverbs 27:17 which states “Iron sharpens iron, as one person sharpens another.” We make one another better. That’s what a community does, that is what we are here for together. Don’t take that for granted, and do your part. I love you Immanuel.
Rev. Jake Bunjo
September 3, 2020
People: Written and illustrated by Peter Spier
We all know that there are lots of lots of people in the world – and many more millions each year. There are now over 6,000,000,000 human beings on earth, and if it takes you an hour to finish looking at this book, there will be over 4,000 more!
By the year 2050 there will be 9,00,000,000 people on earth. If we all joined hands, the line would be 5,708,806 miles long and would stretch 229 times around the equator. Or twenty -four times the distance to the moon. More than 6,000,000,000 people … and no two of them alike.
Each and every one of us different from all the others. Each one a unique individual in his or her own right. We come in all sizes and shapes: tall, short, and in between. But without a single exception, we all began quite small!
And we come in many colors. Even our eyes have different shapes and colors. And noses come in every shape imaginable. So do faces, lips, and ears.. and everything else!
Think of all of our hair: from snow white to peach black… straight, curly, kinky, and wavy. And a lot of people have no hair at all. People are funny son with straight hair want theirs to be wavy, and others with little curls want their straight.
People around our worl