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October 14, 2020

Choosing the Goodness of God

Scripture Readings:

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!)

 

Blessings,

Pastor Ann

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) 

 

You know.. Paul wrote four letters in captivity-the book of EphesiansPhilippiansColossians, and Philemon in the painful time of period. 

 

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. 

Pastor Jungmo

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.

Blessings,

Pastor Dave

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!

Blessings,

Pastor Dave

September 9, 2020

Break Glass

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.

Pastor Mark

September 5, 2020

Isaiah 58 

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.

 

Blessings. 

Pastor Betsy

September 4, 2020

Community

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 world wear different clothes or none at all. All of us want to look our best. Still, what is considered beautiful or handsome in one place is considered ugly, and even ridiculous, else where.

 

Some of us are wise. Some of us are foolish. But most of us are somewhere in between. Most people are decent, honest, friendly, and well meaning, but some are none of these. Some of us love noise, whereas others simply cannot stand it! And not everybody’s idea of a good time is alike .

 

People everywhere love to play. But not the same games everywhere.

 

The homes we build are as varied as we are. But we all need a roof over our heads.

 

What makes some people laugh makes others cry. Some of us excel at things others could never do. Many of us like doing things with others, while some like being by themselves.

 

We love and keep all sorts of pets. And we celebrate different feasts and holidays.

 

And the things we like to eat are not the same. What people in one place consider a delicacy others would never touch, let alone eat! And the foods some people eat or drink are forbidden to others.

 

Most of us have to work for living, and there are more different ways of doing that than you would believe. Most people work hard, but others are lazy. And a lot of people who want to work, cannot find a job! And some of us are rich, although most are not. And very many are desperately poor.

 

Almost everybody can speak. But there are 201 different main languages spoken on earth.. not to mention the countless variants and dialects spoken by smaller groups. And deaf people can communicate in silence – through sign language!

 

Not nearly all the world’s people can read and write, yet there are almost one hundred different ways of doing it.

 

Some people, but very few, are mighty and powerful, although most of us are not mighty at all. We have invented a strange system of ranks, grades, and classes. Yet we all live on the same planet, breath the same air, and warm ourselves in the same sun. And in the end we all must die.

 

A few of us are remembered long, long after we’re gone. And even that, in countless different ways.

 

Six billion human beings .. young and old, sick and well, happy and unhappy, kind and unkind, strong and weak. People everywhere. And all different.

 

It is very strange: Some people even hate others because they unlike themselves. Because they are different. They forget that they too would seem different if they could only see themselves through other people’s eyes.

 

But imagine how dreadfully dull this world of ours would be if everybody looked, thought, ate, dressed, and acted the same!

 

Now, isn’t it wonderful that each and every one of us is unlike any others?

Pastor Jungmo

September 2, 2020

It’s easy to get bogged down in the little things in life, isn’t it?

We can sometimes get so busy with the mundane things of simply living, that we can so easily lose focus on the bigger picture of life. 

 

It’s one thing after another that keeps our attention pulled in these different directions. These aren’t bad things, I’m sure. We need to work. We need to feed our kids. We need to go to the grocery store.

 

But little by little, or time is sucked away until it’s gone.

 

And then we’re left feeling pretty empty as we (hopefully) tune into church on Sundays. We’re hoping the sermon, or the music will give us what we need for another week.

 

Well… what if there’s more than that?

 

What if God has something more for us than a life where we simply run out of steam everyday, giving little more than a second thought to the bigger picture of life?

 

God tells us something important in Isaiah 55:8-9

 

8“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the Lord.

9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,

    so are my ways higher than your ways

    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

God isn’t sweating the small stuff.

God’s working on another level; a SPIRITUAL level.

 

But He’s calling us to join him.

The Father of all has invited us to dance with Him, to dance with Jesus, to dance with the Spirit, and to see the world in a whole new way!

 

All we have to do is ask!

Ask the Father for HIS eyes.

Ask the Son for HIS hands.

Ask the Spirit for HER heart.

 

We can do this with the help of the Psalmist.

 

 

Let’s pray this pray together today (Psalm 119:33-37):

 

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end.

 

Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.

 

Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.

 

Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain.

 

Turn my eyes from looking at vanities; give me life in your ways.

 

Amen.

Pastor Dave

September 1, 2020

Planning with the End in Mind:  Part 5 – My EMOTIONAL Health  

 

Scripture Readings:    

Psalm 139   (TPT)  

1 Thessalonians 5:23   (CEV)  

I pray that God, who gives peace, will make you completely holy. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept healthy and faultless until our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 

 

Maybe it’s just me – but when I think about the fact that God “created me”, my first thought is about how he created my physical body.   Psalm 139:16 in the Passion Translation says it this way, “You even formed every bone in my body when you created me in the secret place [my mother’s womb], carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something.  You saw who you created me to be before I became me.”  Wow… 

 

Take a moment – and read Psalm 139 right now.  Wait a second – if you can, just Google “Psalm 139, The Passion Translation”.  Go ahead and hit ‘pause’ on this video and I’ll wait here for you to come back after you read it…. 

 

Beautiful, isn’t it?  The Psalmist reminds us in this passage, though, that didn’t just create us to be physical beings.  Now matter how perfect our physical body is formed, one day, it will no longer exist.  Our body is just the shell or temporary housing that contains the essence of who we really are.  The Apostle Paul refers to this in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, “I pray that God, who gives peace, will make you completely holy. And may your spirit, soul, and body be kept healthy and faultless until our Lord Jesus Christ returns.”   

 

This week, we’re in Part 5 of this six-part series where we’ve had the chance to take a very intentional look at our lives and basically give our “whole being” an audit!!  If you’ve tracked with me, we’ve talked about several practical but physical areas of like to assess (our body, time, finances, etc.) but we aren’t just physical beings!  Our bodies house our soul and our spirit (which we’ll talk about as we close this series next week).   

 

Peter Scazzero opens his book, Emotionally Health Spirituality, with these words:  “Christian spirituality, without an integration of emotional health, can be deadly – to yourself, your relationship with God, and the people around you.”  We can be physically fit, manage our time well, be financially sound, but if we aren’t aware of and in control of our thoughts, feelings and behaviors we will not be able to deal with the inevitable challenges of life – and ultimately, we’ll either self-destruct or never be able to experience whole and healthy relationships with the people around us.  With that in mind, I encourage you to open up to another blank page in your notebook and across the top of the page write, My Emotional Health.   

 

Being emotionally healthy doesn’t mean that we’re always happy – but it does mean that we have the skills to really handle the ups and downs of everyday life.  Ask yourself these questions as you look at how you have handled life over the last few months – and as you look ahead to the next 3 months or so: 

  1. Am I aware of my emotions?  What makes me happy these days?  Angry? Sad?  Am I stressed or anxious?  (just ask the people you live with and they’ll certainly be able to answer these questions with you! 

  1. Am experiencing a general sense of calm and peace (thinking before I react to people) or am I reacting in ways by doing or saying things that I regret? 

  1. Do I generally feel light, free, and positive or heavy, bound up and negative or critical of everyone and everything around me? 

  1. In what areas of my life am I experiencing: 

  1. Depression or Anxiety 

  1. Guilt, Shame or Regret 

  1. Fears or Doubts 

  1. Insecurity, Inadequacy or Inferiority 

  1. Ask God to point out any areas where you might need to improve your emotional health by: 

  1. Seeing a doctor (to 1st be sure you’re physically healthy) to talk through your concerns and find out if medication, a change in diet, etc. might help  

  1. Identifying your support system.  The most emotionally healthy people have positive and encouraging relationships and stay connected with other people.  Do you need to call a friend, counselor, or pastor to talk things through? 

 

In John 14:27, Jesus tells us, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.  Not as the world gives…let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” When our souls are experiencing more turmoil, uneasiness, and unfulfillment instead of peace, or joy, the fruits of the Spirit or life and fullness, often God is using those feelings to communicate to us that something needs attention in our lives.   

  

If in assessing your Emotional Health you find that you really are stuck - I’d love to hear from you!  There are many resources available so that you don’t have to stay “stuck” where you are.  My email address is below and I’d be more than happy to come alongside you in your journey towards becoming more like Jesus!   

 

Hope to see you again next Tuesday! 

Pastor Ann

August 31, 2020

The Process of Sanctification

Recently, we enjoyed our annual family vacation at Knoebels Amusement Park in Elysburg. Both of our daughters and their families and Holly and I rent a house and we spend a week riding roller coasters and bumper cars and swimming at the Crystal pool and even eating funnel cake—no judging, please. It’s always a great week of fun.

This year, we took a day trip to Pioneer Tunnel in Ashland—and went deep into a coal mine to see how miners worked and then rode on an 1800’s steam train into the countryside. We listened to a lecture from a local historian. I learned some things about coal that I didn’t know before.

Did you know that before coal is coal, it’s first just green plants and trees. Through the years, plant material decomposes and turns into a substance called peat. Over hundreds of thousands of years and a lot of pressure and heat, peat turns into coal. Anthracite coal which is mined in this part of the country is about 95% carbon and burns pretty clean.

But if coal is left alone for millions and millions of years, what does it turn into? Diamonds. Diamonds are 100% carbon and considered the hardest substance on earth as well as extremely valuable. People were using diamonds for drilling 1200 years before Jesus walked the earth.

Now, you may be asking, “Why the history lesson about green plants, black peat, coal and clear diamonds? The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 1:6 says “I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Paul is describing the process of sanctification that every believer must go through to become more like Jesus. We love the green plant stage because it’s full of life, but along the way God wants some things to die

out in your life. For a time it may feel ugly and dark but if we trust God through the process, we get to a point of greater usefulness when we burn strong and clean for the Lord. But God’s not done with us at that stage, either. He’s refining us so that eventually we become diamonds, strong, incredibly valuable, shining brightly, perfectly reflecting his image.

But notice that God uses time, trials and great pressures to squeeze us, to form us into something incredibly beautiful and valuable.

We’re living in a moment of great turmoil. Many people are feeling enormous pressure as schools reopen, as we are weeks away from a presidential election and as we still react to the pandemic we are in.

God is using all of these things to lovingly shape us for greater usefulness and to better reflect the image of Jesus. Stay with it. Let God continue his work in you until the day Jesus returns and he can say to you “Well done, good and faithful servant”.

Happy Monday.

Pastor Mark

August 30, 2020

“Jesus, you know my heart is prone to wander. Sometimes I know why and sometimes I don’t. But I do know I want a deep relationship with you and I want your best for my life. Keep me from backsliding. Do whatever you have to do to make and keep me pure. I promise to call out any sin in my life and walk away from it. I promise to guard my heart by honestly searching it and asking you to search it as well. Thank you for loving me. In your name I pray, Amen.”

August 29, 2020

Matthew 18:10-14 

Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost. 

 

Beloved, in the world you often have to operate out of your more aggressive, dominant self. You have to make decisions, prove yourself competent, and confront challenges. You have done well to learn how to rise to the occasion and be successful. 

There are also weaker, more timid parts inside of you. You have to be very intentional to show these parts care, to draw them out of hiding and give them attention. Some of these parts never received nurturing, comfort, or validation. Some have become lost to you. But it’s not too late to learn their stories and give them what they need. 

From time to time, set your stronger self aside and focus on the parts that are still weak. Don’t despise the little ones; instead be very gentle and kind. The more you build trust with your weaker parts, the more likely you will stop leaving them behind. What a celebration will occur when your weaker parts start operating congruently and at their full capacity. You will be amazed that they were ever missing and make sure it never happens again. 

Get to know and lovingly receive all the dynamic and diverse parts that are inside you. Together, they are a chorus of witnesses that can harmoniously proclaim my glory. 

—Abba       

 

Sanctification, being changed from the inside out is a miraculous work that Christ does in us. As I was hearing this prayer today, I was reminded that our part is to give all of ourselves to Him and let him transform even the weaker parts we would like to pretend doesn’t exist. We also need to give him our strengths and gifts and allow him to use these and for us to grow in them. Wherever you are today, may you feel the strength to lay your soul bare before the Lord and take a brave step to being changed.  

Blessings, 

Pastor Betsy

August 28, 2020

Man in the Mirror

I love music from previous eras, I tried to keep that as vague as possible because classic music takes on so many different meanings. I often wonder what I would have listened to if I grew up in a different time period. There has been so much amazing music given to the world decade by decade. There are certainly some artists I wish I could have grown up with. The Eagles are definitely on top of that list, based off my music taste today I have a feeling that I would have gravitated towards their music had I grown up then. James Taylor is another artist that I wish I could have experienced in a different way. The list goes on and on, but one musical artist who musically has the respect of many is Michael Jackson. I would have loved to have seen the progression of Michael Jackson, starting in the Jackson 5 and then moving on to his solo career. There were many different hits that caused Michael Jackson to be one of the most well-known artists to have ever lived, but my favorite is an easy pick, Man in the Mirror.

 

I am often drawn to songs by their lyrical content, and that is why Man in the Mirror has always been a special song to me. We all want to see change in the world, but how often are we willing to acknowledge that change has to come from us first. There is a quote that says “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. I feel that this quote speaks to the message of this song. The song begins with a myriad of feelings that come up when seeing the brokenness that surrounds us. And the reaction of the individual is first to make a change within. The song shares this hope that states if an internal change can be made, then external changes will soon follow.

 

For a long time I have struggled with the idea of repentance. I’ve always had a negative connotation with it, feeling like it was shameful for some reason. Repentance is change. It is choosing a different path for yourself. Leaving behind the old, and seeking the Lord in the new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation. The old has gone, and the new has come.” Repentance is realizing that we need a change. Sometimes it is so much easier to point out flaws in others rather than deal with our own issues. God is so good and His mercies are new every day. Which means that He is capable of doing something new within us every day!

 

But in order to see that, we have to start with the person that looks back in the mirror. We have to look at ourselves and be willing to make change. God is not stagnant, and He does not want us to be stagnant. Life changes and we should be prepared to change with it. We acknowledge often in this time that we want the world to be different. We talk often that we just wish more people knew the Lord. Well it starts with us. Revival starts with us. If we are not making the changes within that we need to make, we will struggle to see the change we seek around us. So commit to the Lord, and commit to change.

Rev. Jake Bunjo

August 27, 2020

Catch the Wind of the Holy Spirit

Good morning Immanuel.

 

Barbara and I love the body of Christ at Immanuel Church. We receive so much joy from you all.

 

I’d like to speak of the Doldrums that is part of the coronavirus pandemic. The Doldrums is an18th century term for a natural occurrence of a miserable experience for ships with sails. It’s a place between the two trade winds that blow to the Americas and back to England. The doldrums is a place near the equator of total calm: no wind, no clouds, and terribly hot. If your ship gets stuck in the doldrums it could take days, sometimes even months to escape. The Doldrums are also a place of emotional and spiritual loneliness that COVID 19 has brought on.

 

In May I got caught in the doldrums. Watching the news I witnessed for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, George Floyd breathe his last breath. I was traumatized like I’ve never before in my life and experienced a small case of PTSD.

 

So, How do we get out of the doldrums? We set our sails and catch the wind of the Holy Spirit.

 

Fortunately, as Christians we have the most powerful wind in all of creation - the Holy Spirit.

 

The Holy Spirit is right here and he never stops blowing fresh life, fresh breath into us. He is the wind that pushes us out of the doldrums. Jesus said in John 3:8 that the Spirit is the wind that blows over everyone born again of the Holy Spirit. In John 14:17 Jesus says the Spirit dwells with you. In Romans 8:9,11, 3 times Paul says the Holy Spirit dwells in us if we are in Christ Jesus. 1Cor 3:16 Paul teaches we are the temple of God. Eph 2:22 states we, the church, are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Holy Spirit.

 

It’s no small thing. When the Holy Spirit came upon Mary, Jesus was born who was, who is God incarnate. We have the Holy Spirt of God dwelling in his - God incarnate. God who dwelled all those years in the Temple Holy of Holies now dwells in us! In vessels of clay! Fragile, imperfect vessels, made of dirt is where God dwells here of earth. Like a bride, waiting to be united with Christ.

 

How do we catch this Holy Spirit wind?

 

Here’s some suggestions to set the sails. Stay close to God: Put out our sails. Do the things we already know to do.

 

1. Pray. Remind God and yourself that you are His. Ask, even plead with God to fill your sails with the Spirit of God.

2. Daily Word. I look forward to the daily morning devo’s from our church. They are available 6 days a week. Sunday Worship is the seventh.

3. Fellowship. Over coffee. On a bike ride. For me, sharing my doldrums with a small zoom group of men renewed my hope and reminded me of the power of the almighty God of Jesus that incarnates me. Those men gave me strength and purpose. They gave me back my life.

4. Realize - look inside - to know the fulness of the God in Jesus Christ dwells in you by the Holy Spirit.

 

Father, we give thanks for your truths. Like on the ocean the doldrums are a natural phenomenon in our lives. The Holy Spirit is our supernatural solution. Come Holy Spirit; Fill our sails. Thank you.

John Beaudry

August 26, 2020

Good morning!

Do you ever get distracted by something?

HA!

The answer is YES, yes you do.

 

As I sat down to write this devotional I look over to my right and I see my daughter sitting on the porch swing next to my dad. My eyes are drawn in by the site of a grandfather and granddaughter chatting back and forth. 

 

My eye are pulled over there over and over even though I’m supposed to be writing this devotional! Something keeps drawing me in; something tells me that moment on the porch swing is more impoartant than what I’m writing.

 

I was reading this morning from Exodus 3:1-12 about the burning bush. Let’s read about it now.

 

3:1 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

 

3:2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed.

 

3:3 Then Moses said, "I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up."

 

3:4 When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am."

 

3:5 Then he said, "Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."

 

3:6 He said further, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

 

3:7 Then the LORD said, "I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings,

 

3:8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

 

3:9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them.

 

3:10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt."

 

3:11 But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"

 

3:12a He said, "I will be with you”

 

The part the really drew me in today was when Moses said, “I MUST turn aside and look at this great sight.”

 

He had already seen it!

He saw it, and realized it deserved his FULL attention.

 

There are a lot of things around us that we notice. But so many of things, we neglect to examine. 

 

I love how it was only when the Lord saw the Moses had turned to REALLY see, to really examine, the God decided to call on him.

 

Moses. Moses.

 

I feel like we settle sometimes for the quick glance. Our Christian life is sometimes not much more than a quick look in God’s direction as we go about our day. 

 

It’s like, I could have simply sat down and written this devotional and only taken a cursory France at my dad and my daughter, but something drew me to them.

 

It’s the same with our Christian life.

 

God is calling us closer.

God wants us to turn aside and examine Him.

 

We are called to more than just a quick look at our Creator; at our Father; at the Son; at the Spirit. We are called to examine, to turn our WHOLE LIVES to him.

 

So today, I encourage you to turn aside from what you’re doing, and examine God in a new way. God is calling us to turn aside. 

 

What do you observe when you truly look?

 

Have a great day!

 

Blessings,

Pastor Dave

August 25, 2020

Planning with the End in Mind:  Part 4 – My MENTAL Health  

 

Scripture Readings:    

Matthew 6:21   (NIV)  

Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. 

 

Hebrews 8:10   (NIV)  

This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord.  I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. 

 

Isaiah 26:3   (ISV)  

You will keep perfectly peaceful the one whose mind remains focused on you, because he remains in you. 

 

Philippians 4:8  (NIV)  

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. 

  

Today is the 4th of six Tuesday Devotional sessions about how we can plan with the end in mind.  In the most focused and fruitful seasons of my adult life, I have been intentional to sit down with the Lord every 3-4 months and really evaluate where I have been – and where I sense God is leading me – with regard to some very specific aspects of life.  As we seek to be more and more like Jesus, I’ve realized over the years that the Holy Spirit really does want to speak into our Relational Health, our Physical Health and how we spend our days – and our Financial Health. 

 

This week, I encourage you to open up to another blank page in your notebook and across the top of the page write, My Mind.  It’s absolutely amazing to see how many Scriptures there are about our minds – how we think and interpret the world around us.  I’ve only listed a few here – but there are literally hundreds!  And because this is where the enemy had a stronghold for such a long time in my life, soooo many of these scriptures are burned deep into my heart.  

 

It is far more tangible to assess my Physical Health – I can step on the scale, get a blood test, check my calendar and objectively evaluate pretty quickly how balanced – or IMbalanced” I am.  I can see a good snapshot of my Financial Health on a spreadsheet and with some thought, I can also objectively measure to some degree – the quality of the Relationships in my life.  But how can I really know the quality of my thinking?  In fact, the Psalmist wrote in Psalm 94:11, “The Lord knows people’s thoughts; he knows they are worthless!”  (NLT) Though I think the Psalmist was being a little ‘tongue in cheek’, he’s not all wrong! 

 

So how can we periodically set some goals to ensure that we are intentionally developing what Paul calls, the mind of Christ, in 1 Corinthians 2:16?  There are so many ways, but here are just a few simple ones to get you started. 

  1. How much time am I spending in the Bible?  Be honest!  Are you regularly reading the Bible?  If not, it’s the first place to start to develop strong mental health!  God’s Word is alive and active and it judges our thoughts and attitudes (Hebrews 4:12).  It brings light to dark places, truth to lies and is the only offensive weapon we have to fight the enemy.  So in looking back over the last few months and planning for the months ahead…set a realistic, attainable goal for how much time you’ll be in the Bible daily.  (Actually, studies show that even four days a week in God’s Word have a profound impact of your thinking and life!) 

  1. Check out a Scripture Reading Plan like this one:  https://fivedaybiblereading.com/BibleReadingSchedule2020.pdf 

  1. Download the YouVersion App on your phone or tablet and there are literally 1000s of reading plans or studies that will even send you reminders! 

 

  1. Determine to READ!   

  1. If you aren’t already a reader, choose one book to read (or listen to!) over the next three months.  

  1. If you already read, list one book per month or week! 

  1. Looking for a good book?  There are SO many lists available just by googling something like “Great Christian Book Reads”!  A quick search and this list popped up – and since a few of my all-time favorite books are on it, I figured the list is worth checking out!  https://frankpowell.me/books-christian-read-thirty  

 

  1. Take out the Trash!  As you look ahead at the next few months, ask the Holy Spirit to let you know about one thing you need to stop putting into your mind.  Our minds are an ever-present battlefield.  What TV shows, video games, music, conversations, might need to be ‘kicked to the curb’ so that we can think more clearly…more truthfully…more lovely….more pure?  (Philippians 4:8) 

 

Proverbs 23:7 makes this bold statement: “For as a man thinks within himself, so is he.”  You know, you can’t see the “real me”…the ongoing thoughts constantly running through my mind.  But as we seek to be more like Jesus, we discover that how we think determines how we live and who we are.  So taking even one step towards better Mental Health is a powerful step in the right direction! 

  

If you’re working through any of these areas in your life along with me, I’d love to hear from you!  My email address is below and I’d love to come alongside you in your journey towards becoming more like Jesus!   

 

Hope to see you again next Tuesday! 

Pastor Ann 

August 24, 2020

Break Glass

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.

Pastor Mark

August 21, 2020

Know Your Why

One of the most important things in life that you can do, is know your why. Know the reason behind the things that you do. I see a lot of people walk through life, seemingly aimless. They do whatever they choose and do not care much for the repercussions. This worries me, it worries me deeply. An aimless life is a sad life, mostly for the person living it. I want to do everything I can to fight against the aimless life. That is why I share the gospel, so that others may know what the true aim of life is.

So let’s start with the basics. Why did Jesus come in the first place? John 3:16, AND 17, have a lot to say about this.

“For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:16-17 NIV

We can see clearly here that God loves us, and He sent His son to save us. We were dead in our sins and Jesus came to give us life again. Not just an earthly life, but a new life eternal!

Maybe you knew this already, maybe those verses are very familiar and you understand your why. But do you always act like it? When you look at each decision, can you always point it back to our why?

In this season of my life I am trying to become very self-aware. I want to know myself and understand what I do and why I do it. It is a daunting task to be honest. It is not easy to dig down deep within one’s self and try and seek what is not often sought after. But I want to do whatever I can, to life my life to the fullest.  In John 10:11 Jesus says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus wants us to have life to the fullest and He came to give us just that! So if we want life to the fullest we will stay in Him!

So I am asking us all to do something bold. I am asking us to search within ourselves and find the things that don’t belong. Pray the prayer given to us in Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” If we truly know our why and live it out, we ought to pray this prayer every day. If we are to be unencumbered in our pursuit of holiness, we should make habit of searching ourselves every day. It’s not about an easy life, it’s about a meaningful life, an abundant life. And no matter who you are and where you are, there is infinite potential in Christ in you, every day. I pray we all seek it out to the best of our abilities, because to do not so, would be missing out on the greatest treasure on this side of heaven.

Jake Bunjo

August 20, 2020

What are you Holding Onto?

Hi, Immanuel! I’m Suhan. I’m a pastor and I’ve been studying at Missio Seminary in Philadelphia. I thank you for the privilege and the opportunity to share with you today the heart and calling for ministry that God has given myself.

 

There are two recent events that have changed my perspectives about America. One is the situation of Covid19 and the other was the death of George Floyd. Both events have become a huge issue not only for myself but also for the entire American society.

 

While I have been studying in the United States, I have had so many positive experiences regarding the American experience. I have seen strong and friendly Christian leadership and values in my interactions with the Immanuel family, great professors at seminary, through the relationships I built, and the opportunity to experience a culture that recognize an individual’s diversity.

 

However, my perspective changed a bit due to the experiences I had due to Covid19. My heart became heavy whenever I read articles from News or social media that blamed Asians for the pandemic, and the violence and hatred that were inflicted about the Asian community. I began to feel conscious of other people whenever I took a walk in the streets. Even before churches officially closed due to the pandemic, I was also worried if church members would welcome my family as they had once done before.

 

Also, through the George Floyd case, I was able to recognize the deep rooted racial conflicts and divisions that were plaguing this country. In the book of Galatians 5:13, Paul said, “For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy our sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”

Although the freedom God gave through Jesus was an active freedom to serve each other, but our freedom today has become not only a passive freedom that is not interfered with by others, but a weapon that inflicts pain, suffering, and damage to others.

 

I confess that I was only trying to learn the good things from America, and not the history and pain behind it. I didn’t try to understand the pain, difficulties, and loneliness of others because I was so anxious and worried about myself. Through these two experiences, God enable me to realize that my heart wasn’t compassionate, but selfish. God has revealed to me that America is now the mission field, and it needs our prayers.

It is vital that we learn from the situations that Corona has presented to us, and we have to change our focus and values through the case of George Floyd. The Things we once believed in are no longer viable. I cannot put my trust in myself and rely on my race, my health, my planning, and my finances. The reason being is because they are able to change easily and abruptly according to the circumstances surrounding them. However, there is one constant, there is one that never changes, that is God. The freedom I am able to enjoy does not from race, occupation, wealth, or an abundant life, but by the grace and mercy of God.

 

I’m considered a minority in the United States, I’m not fluent in English. I know what I am able to do in America is limited than if I were living in Korea. However, every day, I hold on to the Rock of my salvation, who is unshakable. I have the desire to deliver hope through the power of the name of Jesus Christ to the hopeless. I want to share the peace that can be found only in God with the angry and restless, and I want to share the healing powers of Jesus Christ with the wounded.

 

We can be truly free, peaceful, and happy only in God. What is the rock of your life? Where is

the foundation of your faith?

 

The foundation of our faith must be upon the rock. However, I don’t want to mislead you by saying that once we believed in God, we will no longer have pain, suffering, or failures in this life time, because we will. Nevertheless, we will now have the faith and the strength to find joy in the despair, sorrow, and sufferings, for they are only for a moment. I need and want all of you to pray for America, an America that is groaning with wounds, anger, racism, division, conflict, and hopelessness.

Suhan Jung

August 19, 2020

Sometimes before bed I end up getting sucked into watching videos on Facebook. Most times they are America’s Funniest Home videos. Other times they are fighting videos. Well, last week I came across a pretty awesome video of Mohammed Ali. Man! That guy could fight! He was the greatest boxer of all time.

 

Well, I’m sure most of you know he didn’t begin his life as Mohammed Ali. He was born Cassius Clay. Well, in 1964 he changed his name and became Mohammed Ali, the name we remember to this day. 

 

Well, the whole world new him as Mohammed Ali, and he hated his old name so much because he said it was his slave name. His new name was what defined him and his life. But one fighter, Ernie Terrell refused to call him Mohammed Ali. Well, this really bothered Ali and when they finally had their showdown in the ring in 1967, that fight became known as the “SAY MY NAME” fight! Ali punished poor Ernie Terrell until late in the match Terrell finally said his name, Mohammed Ali.

 

Why was this so important to Ali?

Why did it matter?

 

Well, there is power in names, isn’t there?

 

When I read these verses today, I was SO reminded of the Mohammed Ali story. Listen to Matthew 16:13-17

16:13 …Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

 

16:14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

 

16:15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

 

16:16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

 

16:17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.

 

You see?

There was power in it!

 

Jesus asked the disciples, “Who am I?” “What’s my name?”

 

And they answered, “You are the Messiah!”

Jesus is the messiah, the savior, the ONE they had been waiting for for generations!

 

In Paul’s letter to the Philippian Christians, he emphasized the POWER in Jesus name! He reminded those Christians that at the mere sound of the name, Jesus, we should get on our knees and bow in worship.

 

Philippians 2:9-11 says this,

9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor

    and gave him the name above all other names,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,

    to the glory of God the Father.

 

There is power in names!

There is power in the name of Jesus!

 

My devotional message to you today is asking the same question Jesus asked:

Who do you say that Jesus is in your life?

 

My prayer for you is the same as Paul’s:

There is power in the name of Jesus.

 

I encourage you to use the link below as your soundtrack for today. May it remind you of the power of names. May it awaken in you a new realization that at the name of Jesus, our hearts will bow before our savior.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEwDx8YJndU

 

Have a great day.

Pastor Dave

August 18, 2020

Planning with the End in Mind:  Part 3 – My FINANCIAL Health 

Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:21 (NIV) 

21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

 

If I were to ask you, according to what is recorded in the New Testament, “What is the #1 topic that Jesus talked about while he was living here on earth?”, what would you guess?  Love?  Forgiveness?  Heaven?  It always surprises me that it actually was….Money.  11 of his 39 parables in the Gospels talk about…money, treasure or just our ‘stuff!’  In fact, if you take all of the recorded words of Jesus and do the math – 1 out of every 7 verses is about money! 

In this Tuesday devotional series, I’ve been asking you to join me on a journey of evaluation.  If we were to fast-forward to the end of our lives when we take our last earthly breath and see Jesus face to face, we can anticipate desperately wanting to hear Jesus say to us, “Well done!” when he looks back over the life that we lived.  To end well requires that we do some planning along the way, so we’re talking about taking inventory of every area of our lives…we’ve talked about looking at how we’re investing in our relationships and our physical health, including how we spend our time.   

But if we’re going to be fully committed followers of Jesus Christ, we also have to evaluate our financial health – because it was obviously important to Jesus.  In fact, with over 2,000 references in the Bible to our relationship with money and our possessions – it’s obviously extremely to God throughout all time!  Dig a little deeper though and you’ll discover that it really wasn’t the money that was Jesus’ issue.  What Jesus knew though was there is a powerful connection between our checkbook/credit card statement/QuickBooks spreadsheet and our spiritual lives.  How we save (or hoard) money - how we spend money – how we accumulate debt – how envious we are of other people’s money….all indicate the hold that money and ‘stuff’ (which one day all disappear) has on our heart (which will last forever! 

So, this week, I want to invite you to take an intentional look at the money and the ‘stuff’ that is a part of your life.  I love this quote from John Wesley in 1789 in his sermon entitled, The Use of Money: “Earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.”  To take our financial temperature as we evaluate our overall health as followers of Jesus, take a blank sheet of paper, and write My Financial Health across the top.  

Looking over the past few months and looking ahead the next 3-6 months, ask the Holy Spirit to open your eyes to see your finances from His perspective in these places:   

 

“Earn all I can…” 

  • Am I really doing that?  Do I have a job?  Is it good, honest work?  Am I reporting my wages with integrity?  Could I/should I be working more?  Working less?  Is there something that I should be doing now to prepare to change any of that in the near future? (ie, do I need to… go back to school? Get ‘that’ certification or license?  Should I write or update my resume and just get it out there?  Talk with my boss about a change I should make soon or in the next few years in what I do within my current company?   

 

  • Budgeting… how much income do I bring home each month?  How does that match up with my monthly expenses?  Do I have an actual spending plan?  Should I be asking for help to set that up so that I really can make the most of every dollar I earn?  Beyond monthly expenses, what are some big ticket items that I see might be coming in the near future?  (ie, roof replacement? Leaky tub?  Car replacement in the relatively near future?  - - oh wait, that’s my list, probably not yours HAHA!)   

“Save all I can…” 

  • Am I actually saving money?  Do I have an ‘emergency’ fund in case my HVAC goes or my tires need replacement?  Is this the time to move so I don’t have to pay so much for rent? Should I be saving to buy a house?  Am I ‘throwing away money” in interest payments on credit card debt that I could be saving?  Are there places I’ve drifted into unintentionally spending money (hmm…grabbing coffee on the way to work too often???) that I could be holding onto better?  Is this the time to refinance my house? Regardless of my age – am I putting away money for retirement? Do I need to visit with a financial advisor to help me set up a long-range savings plan? 

 

 “Give all I can…” 

  • Am I tithing at least 10% of my gross income?  Consistently support Global Missions?  Kenya’s Kids?  Other Kingdom-building ministries??  Do I have a growing anxiousness about never having enough and living with my fists tightly clenched around my wallet or am I experiencing a growing awareness that everything I have belongs to God so I can loosen my hands to free share when I hear the Holy Spirit’s prompting to do so?  Am I known by those closest to me as stingy? Cheap? Greedy? Or as generous? Do I give cheerfully or through clenched teeth or out of obligation? If I were to prayerfully ask God to daily direct how I earn, save and give money – would I be able or even willing to respond to those in need?  

 

Whew - - Financial Health is hard!  GOD-informed financial health is especially challenging!!  But don’t give up!  As I’ve watch others and am taking this journey myself – God delights in blessing his children!  One of the greatest characteristics of God is his lavish generosity.  As we begin to really see money God’s way, as we manage well what He’s given to us and hold our wallets loosely in our hands, an unexplainable freedom comes putting us in a place that enables God to use us and do more in, through and for us that we could possible imagine!  

Happy Tuesday! 

Pastor Ann

August 17, 2020

A Gentle Answer

Proverbs 15:1

There is something powerful about being gentle. Gentle doesn’t mean you’re weak. It means you’re wise. At least that’s what the writer of Proverbs thinks; “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger” or as another translation says “A gentle response diverts anger, but a harsh statement incites fury.”

My grandfather was a coalminer who lived in Western Pennsylvania. His was a harsh life. His body was like a rock; no fat, all muscle. His hands were huge and gnarly. When we made the 12 hour trek to visit he and grandma each summer, he would give me a big hug and tussle my hair with his hands. He hurt my scalp. He didn’t know his own strength. But he was gentle and playful and full of love.

Gentleness is the best course of action even when everything in you wants to respond with a snarkiness. Gentleness is what you need most when you’ve been attacked or misunderstood or wrongly judged. It takes great strength to not respond with fire and fury when you’ve tasted the fury and fire of others.

Gentleness doesn’t mean not speaking truth. It does mean speaking truth courageously but without an edge. It doesn’t mean not standing up for yourself. It does mean standing up for yourself without defensiveness.

Jesus is our example of navigating the complexities of gentleness. He held babies in his arms and declared “such is the kingdom of God”. But he also called out the Pharisees as a bunch of “whitewashed tombs”. Mark 15:5 says that Jesus stood before Pilate and was silent, meaning he didn’t say a thing to justify himself and Pilate was amazed; knowing he had the power to release Jesus.

I’m sure you’ve heard the analogy that every person holds a bucket of water in one hand and a bucket of gasoline in the other. You have the choice in every conversation at home, work, church, in your neighborhood, at the grocery store to put fires out with water or blow them up with gas. Choose gentleness.

We need more gentleness in our culture right now. It seems everyone feels empowered to rant and cast judgment. Be the voice of reason. Speak your mind but do so respectfully and humbly. This a great evangelistic moment for the Kingdom of God. You can lead people to Christ just by responding in a Christ like way. People are disoriented and scared. You have the opportunity to share Jesus with them. This is what holiness means; it means responding differently than the culture.

Be Jesus this week by being gentle. Have a great week!

Pastor Mark

August 15, 2020

Waiting With Hope - A WEEKLY MEDITATION   

Found on www.ordinaryliturgy.com 

 

Friends, 

We are all waiting in uncertainty for the global pandemic to end, and for our lives to return to a more predictable level of stability. Rather than waiting with bated breath, what could waiting with hope look like?  

Perhaps it resembles Mary Oliver's poem A Thousand Mornings, as she experiences the slow arrival of light and anticipates the first bird song: 

"All night my heart makes its way 

however it can over the rough ground 

of uncertainties, but only until night 

meets and then is overwhelmed by 

morning, the light deepening, the 

wind easing and just waiting, as I 

too wait (and when have I ever been 

disappointed?) for redbird to sing." 

Despite the difficulties my heart goes through in any given day (periods of darkness, uncertainty, or confusion) God's Spirit is like the redbird, never failing to sing. 

It may be in the sweet arrival of peace, overwhelming my fear and anxiety. Or a sense of divine companionship in the unknowns. Or I may hear a gentle voice reminding me of my belovedness. 

I invite you to join me in an exercise that helps me wait on God's Spirit with hope. The exercise can take as little as one minute; it is a simple return to presence.     

Take a moment to become still and rest in silence. Settle into your body, noticing any physical sensations. Set your to-do list and thoughts to the side, assuring yourself they will be given due attention later. 

Then take a deep breath. Fill your lungs with fresh oxygen and release all the stagnant air. Turn your focus inward. Connect to God's Spirit in and with you - always present, a source of wisdom and love you can endlessly draw on. 

Rest here as long as you would like, noticing what feelings come up for you.   

Then let Spirit speak to you. What is the most loving, truthful statement that comes to mind? Let it rise up out of the center of your being. Go ahead - take a moment to listen. 

Does what you hear surprise you? Or is it obvious, perhaps something you've needed to hear but haven't heard for a while? Receive these words as specifically given to you at this time. You may want to write your words down and reflect on them later. 

Practice connecting to your source of wisdom, truth, and love throughout the day. Spend time with Jesus. This could be in carving out a little space for His peace to meet you. Tuning into your body and tending to your physical needs. Taking a moment to listen. Or being intentional to not get caught up in negative thinking, being hard on yourself, or overwhelmed by news and media. 

In closing, I want to leave you with a blessing: 

Friend, cease your seeking and striving. Let yourself sink into the weight of your body. Feel the light inside you warming and deepening. A clearing has formed, and with it, a beginning. God's Spirit has something new to show you. Wait and listen. You won't be disappointed. 

Blessings, 

Pastor Betsy

August 14, 2020

Plant gardens

 

Hi I’m Bobbie Renzi and this devotional is being brought to you from my happy place, my back yard garden! Gardens in the Bible represented places of beauty, shelter, protection, and provision. Jesus was often found retreating to a garden for prayer and meditation, or to hang out with his friends. My garden serves those same purposes for me!

I love the way God’s word is full of gardening metaphors! God uses plants, seeds and weeds to teach us about our relationship with him (Isaiah 58:11, John 15:1-7), his kingdom (Luke 13:18-19), his will for us (Genesis 2:15-16), and his goodness (Isaiah 61:11).

In Jeremiah 29 God even commands the Israelites, exiled in Babylon for 70 years, a place they did not want to be and were not happy about, he told them basically to ‘settle in and plant gardens’. Jeremiah 29:4 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 5”Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. 6 Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they might have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. 7 Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you will prosper.”

What I hear when I read these verses is…do what you know to do…and pray!

The Israelites were in captivity, living in a strange land, and removed from the all that was familiar to them. Their lives were thrown off balance, they were anxious, and they had no idea what the future held. They longed for ‘normal’. Sound familiar?

How many of you have felt you are being held ‘captive’ by covid?

Even in their darkest days, God commanded his children to ‘go on living’. Sometime the best you can do is put one foot in front of the other. Do what needs to be done! Personally, I have found doing the mundane, ordinary things in my life, the watering and weeding, have brought me comfort and peace.

In verse 6 God challenges them to increase in number and not decrease. Now I’m not suggesting a baby boom! With churches and other Christian agencies needing to change the way they minister to people, the best way we can to ‘increase’ God’s kingdom is by putting what ‘we know’ into practice. As Christians in this time we can actually be living our lives as missionaries! What a great opportunity to share the hope that is Christ!

I know that however long God has us here, in this foreign land (I hope we don’t have to social distance for seventy years!) I want to be productive and accomplish all that I can right where I am! I want to prosper while in my place of exile. And I want to do what I can to help others prosper too!

The most familiar verse in Jeremiah 29 is verse 11…”For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. Those same words spoken over the Jews in exile can encourage us as well…God does not forget his people.

My hope for you today is that you can ‘settle down and plant gardens’ knowing that the God who carried us here is able to produce beautiful things during difficult days.

Bobbie Renzi

August 13, 2020

Hi Church Family, I hope you are all keeping safe and healthy. My name is Andressa Smith and I am blessed to share with you a little bit about what the Lord has been speaking to me lately. Just a little bit about myself – I live in Lansdale with my husband and 2 kids and we have been attending ICN now for just about 5 years. I love ICN and what the Lord is doing with this church, so blessed to be part of the Lord’s movement in Lansdale.

 

Anyways, when Pastor Jungmo asked me to participate in this video devotional, I pray and ask the Lord to give me guidance on what to share …. And boy did He give me some guidance or what?! This past Sunday during the online church, we sang one of my favorite hymns called “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” – you know how it goes:

 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

 

The song then for some reasons was stuck in my head, I listened to it on my phone, on my laptop, in the car etc – then came Tuesday, you know Tropical storm Isaias decided to pay us a visit. We woke up and it was pouring, it was dark – the kids were still asleep, and I was able to do my devotion time. Let me read the page:

 

“Don’t be Troubled”

The person who trusts the Lord will be blessed. Jeremiah 17:7

Just prior to his crucifixion Jesus told his disciples that he would be leaving them. “Where I am going you cannot follow now, but you will follow later” (John 13:36). Such a statement was bound to stir some questions. Peter spoke for the others and asked, ‘Lord why can’t I follow you now?” (v37). See if Jesus’ reply doesn’t reflect the tenderness of a parent to a child: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I would not tell you this it if were not true. I am going there to prepare a place for you …. I will come back and take you to be with me so that you may be where I am going (John 14:1-3). Reduce the paragraph to a sentence and it might read: ‘You do the trusting and I’ll do the taking”

 

Wow, Isn’t that beautiful? It spoke to me that morning!

 

Well you know what friends; the Lord has been preparing me for what it was going to happen that Tuesday afternoon. So that Tuesday afternoon, with all those rains, our basement got flooded. Yep, we’re talking several inches of water and our basement was (it is not anymore!) fully carpeted, and fully finished. It’s total loss down there, we need to gut out everything. And you know what church family, the Lord in His goodness – He knew our basement was going to get flooded, so he used the church and the song we sang to remind me to “TURNS MY EYES UPON JESUS” J! And the devotional I did that Tuesday morning reminded me to “NOT BE TROUBLED” – I made a deliberate choice then then to turn my eyes upon Jesus and not be

troubled with my situation … and the things of earth will grow strangely dim (hint: flooded basement).

 

Friends, don’t we serve an amazing Savior, who knew us so well and knew even before we knew that we would need help, and that we would need Holy Spirit to guide us. How many of you have found yourself in similar situation like me?

I know this was not the 1st time stuff like this happened to me and I know it wouldn’t be the last.

 

I want to close with a simple prayer that my daughter has been praying every night with me: something that I know applies to me as well.

 

Two little eyes to look to God,

Two little ears to hear his Word,

Two little feet to walk in His ways,

Two little lips to sing His praise,

Two little hands to do His will,

And one little heart to love Him still.

Amen.

Thanks for the opportunity to share this with you friends, I pray that you all keep safe and be blessed!

Andressa Smith

August 12, 2020

He is Enough

What Christians should do about their grumbling and complaining

Paul Hunter

August 11, 2020

Planning with the End in Mind:  My Physical Health 

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (TLB) 

 “Haven’t you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy Spirit God gave you, and that he lives within you?  Your own body does not belong to you.  For God has bought you with a great price.  So use every part of your body to give glory back to God because he owns it.” 

 

Last week I began a “Tuesday devotional series” and invited you on a weekly journey with me to ask and answer the question, “How should I be living NOW so that in the END I can hear Jesus greet me with a ‘well done!’ when I see Him face to face?”  To answer that question, I’ve found it super helpful to periodically take an inventory of several areas of life so that I can take an honest look at where I AM and make a plan for the next 3-6 months to intentionally get a little closer to where I WANT to be.  Ultimately asking the Holy Spirit to speak into the process and help me become more and more like Jesus in every area of my life. 

 

Last Tuesday, I encouraged you to put some thought into your Relational Health by taking a blank notebook and writing:  My Relationships  across the top of a blank page and then thinking about the people in your life and the relationships that God has put around you.  Did you get a chance to do that?  I did – and since I hadn’t done it in a while, I realized – especially in the midst of these weird Covid Days – that it was harder than I’d remembered!  However, in the end, I was reminded how incredibly valuable this list is.  First of all, it acts as a daily prayer list.  Though I can’t pray over every name every day, narrowing the list down to a manageable size gives me a template to work with and each day I’ll pray for a few people and specific things I know that are going on in their lives; asking God to show up and provide for their needs or give them direction or pursue them and call these people that I love in His direction!  Secondly, I use that list to help me determine how I should spend some of my time – and literally contact those people and either talk with them or plan to spend time with them.  To be honest – how can I pray for them if I don’t spend enough time with them to actually know on their heart, what they are worried about, or in general what’s going on in their lives! 

 

This week, I’d like you to join me in turning the page in your notebook and titling the next blank page:  My Physical Health.  There are two parts to this list – and both parts are challenging for me to pay attention to!  The first part I put down is:  My Body.  Under that heading, I typically jot down some categories like these:  

Diet 

Sleep 

Exercise 

Physical Care: 

Doctors I need to see? (Family Doctor, Dentist, Podiatrist, Opthamologist, etc.) 

Other body care I need to tend to.... (do I need a haircut?  pedicure?  chiropractor?) 

 

I’ll be honest – I’d like to say that if I write it down, I definitely get it done with the 3 –6 months ahead, but I don’t always!  However, this exercise does keep in front of me what I know I should be taking care of even if I don’t really want to!  

 

The second part I put down is My Time.  You may wonder what your TIME has to do with your physical health, but I’ve found that if I don’t PLAN for adequate sleep, or time to plan meals or grocery shop, I can’t take care of the first part I’d thought through with regard to my physical health! 

 

Regular review of how I’m spending my time begins to shape what the future looks like – so at this point, I will literally take my calendar and look over what is coming up in the 3-6 months ahead.  And just like the other parts we’ve looked at so far – seriously talk with the Holy Spirit about how I have been spending my time and how He’s leading me to spend the next 3-6 months ahead of me.  To do that, I have to evaluate how I spend my time in these areas: 

 

Daily Routine:  What time am I getting up in the morning?  What needs to happen in the mornings before I leave for work so that I can be more intentional about how I get to spend my evenings? 

Weekly Rhythm:  What do/should my Sundays look like?  Mondays? Tuesdays?, etc.  It’s been so helpful to plan when in the week I should run errands or do yardwork, etc. - so that I’m not frustrated or thinking about “everything” all the time! 

Monthly Calendar:  Again, what events are coming up that I need to plan ahead for? (birthdays? Holidays? Particularly busy times at work, etc.)  Sometimes just knowing that a busy season is coming up at the end of a month, for example, really helps me to prepare me and my whole family for that! 

Sabbath:  God’s called us to actually build some “unproductive time” into the rhythm of our lives – that's a whole study in and of itself!  But if the only way that happens is when I actually plan for unplanned time! 

Vacation:  Should I be planning over the next 3-6 months to get away?  If so, if I don’t calendar it, it doesn’t happen!  And by making the plan for it, it builds some excitement and a “I can make it until then!” anticipation! 

Free Time:  Often we find ourselves saying, “I don’t have ANY free time” or “I have TOO MUCH free time”!  Every 3-6 months, it is rather convicting to look at how I spend the time now already committed to my job, family, ministry, etc.  Undoubtedly, the Holy Spirit brings to mind things that I could be doing that might give me life and energy (like volunteering in the community, taking a class, reading more or spending more time with people on my “relationship list) AND things that I could cut out or limit in my life (like watching less TV, spending less time on social media, etc.) 

 

General review of “work – rest – family time – hobby/fun time” balance... 

 

It’s amazing what God says as I bring these areas of life before Him!  Check out 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20.  In that passage, God reminds us that our bodies aren’t our own.  If the Holy Spirit lives within us, I’m convinced that He has something to say about how we are caring for His home – and how we spend our time.  And as hard it may be to figure out what I should be doing more of – or less of - especially right now when so many things are in an upheaval - I guarantee that if you ask God for direction, he’ll DELIGHT in giving it to you – to me – and we’ll reap the benefits tenfold! 

Happy Tuesday! 

Pastor Ann

August 10, 2020

Loving God and others

Mark 12:30-31

It’s hard to do two things at the same time. Like watching TV while writing a report for school. Or juggling your job while overseeing your child’s virtual education at home. Given the choice, we prefer the ease of binary, either/or decisions. The bible is full of either/or choices. For example, Joshua challenged the Israelites to “choose this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15. To follow Jesus is to choose life over death, light over darkness and freedom over slavery to sin.

But sometimes God doesn’t give us an either/or choice. We must do a both/and.

I was meditating this week on Mark 12:30-31. Jesus said “…you most love the Lord your God will all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. And you must love your neighbor as yourself. No commandment is greater than these.”

When I was a kid, I heard a lot of preachers talk about the importance of loving God with your heart, soul, mind and strength but not as much about loving your neighbor as yourself. I’m not blaming anyone, I may have just missed it, but it felt like the “loving God” was preached with a megaphone but the “loving your neighbor as yourself” message was just in regular voice.

I think it’s easier to focus on loving God because it’s less tangible. You know…just love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. If you ask any Christian if they love God, 99.9% will answer “yes”, but loving your neighbor as yourself is much more challenging.

We had this neighbor who had “water in the basement” problems and one especially bitter, winter day after a heavy rain the night before, I

walked out of our home to get into my car and nearly broke my neck. The driveway was a thick sheet of ice. I discovered that my neighbor had recently installed a new pvc pipe to channel the basement sump pump water and it was aimed directly at our driveway. So, all their basement water flooded our driveway and froze overnight. I went over to their house and talked to the wife who told me in a dismissive tone that we would have to live with it and they weren’t going to do anything about it. And I thought to myself—"that wasn’t the answer I’m looking for, Lady”. I felt my face get flush and my adrenaline begin to rise. But I kept my cool and over the next couple of days, we worked it out and the pvc pipe was moved.

It’s hard work loving people. Charlie Brown once said “I love mankind, it’s just people I can’t stand.” How do you love people? Who is your neighbor? Your neighbor is anyone you come in contact with; anyone in need, any skin color, any hair color, any income level, any education level; any political persuasion.

What’s it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? It means to see and treat people as equals; to respect them as peers, to appreciate differences without judging them as inferior to yours, it means being attentive to their needs and meeting them in a responsible way. It means thinking about the people in your life as much as you think about yourself.

If you’re like most people it will take a lifetime of intentional effort to get even close to loving people as they deserve and God commands. But keep at it. Your efforts will pay off. Our example is Jesus. Jesus loved everybody he came in contact with. He loved the Roman centurion, the rich young ruler, the woman at the well, the woman caught in the act of adultery, he loved people with disabilities, he even loved the Pharisees and teachers of the law. He loved Pilate and Herod.

He loved because he loved his Father with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. He loved because he knew he was loved by His Father.

This week focus on loving people as much as God loves you. Have a great week.

Pastor Mark

August 8, 2020

This week I was struck by Matthew 14, the story where Jesus walks out on the water and invites Peter to walk out with him. I want to show you two clips today from a beautiful movie called “The Shack”. What you are about to see is a scene in the movie where the main character is feeling consumed by fear, which is symbolized by a sinking boat. The only thing that stops the man from being consumed by his fear is listening to Jesus’ voice.  

In our biblical story in Matthew 14, there is a similarly profound moment out on the water. If we read Matthew carefully, we will see that this was not the first time Jesus interacts with Disciples who are afraid out on a boat. The first time in Matthew 8, the disciples find themselves in a storm that was engulfing them and they also found Jesus asleep on the boat in the storm. They begin freaking out and Jesus wakes up and says the exact same words he later says to Peter in Matthew 14, “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?”  

Do you ever feel like if Jesus were texting the disciples nowadays he would always be typing the “hand smacking head” emoji, and adding “seriously?!” This is because in Matthew 8, Peter had already seen Jesus rebuke the winds and waves until they became calm, which had prompted the disciples to say (8:27) “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” I’ll tell you who – the Son of God. In fact those who knew the Hebrew scriptures would know that the one who could calm the sea is only something the Lord could do (Job 9:8; Ps 77:19; Hab 3:15), so this was a sign. 

 

So, fast forward Peter is now in our Matthew 14 story, and when the disciples see Jesus on the water, they think he is a ghost, until they hear his voice, and Jesus says in 14:27, “Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid.”  

Peter hears this voice and still needs Jesus to prove to him he is who he says he is. Jesus says just one word to him, “Come”.  

The thing about storms is that they can be internal or external. The external ones toss us to and fro (we experience job loss, a divorce happens, we are in a pandemic, etc...). As the winds and waves start to take us, we realize how deeply we need Jesus to anchor us, and for us to be tethered to him. We can still feel the storm, but we know it won’t destroy us. Storms can also be internal – they can rage inside of us and wreak havoc on our identity, self-worth, motivation, energy, or can look like rejection or pain from loss. Jesus wants to speak INTO our internal storms, as well, and calm them. Jesus wants us to put our trust in Him and come with Him out on the water. To answer the call to walk with him, to learn from him, and have him transform us with his perfect love. 

Now, I invite you to see this second clip, and while you’re watching it, would you think about answering Jesus’ call to go deeper with Him? Would you accept his perfect love, and don’t try to walk on the water by yourself, but take leaps of faith with Jesus? Experience the lightness of it - your soul transformation from the inside out. Experience the freedom of bondage. Put your full trust in him. Be Blessed today as you run with Jesus. 

Pastor Betsy

August 7, 2020

Have you ever wanted to be on TV?

 

Now, this isn’t something that goes through my head a ton, but every once in a while I’ll catch myself watching a TV show about someone, doesn't matter if they are famous or not, and I'll be thinking to myself...what would it be like to have someone watching me? Maybe you would love to be on TV, or maybe you're one of those people who knows all the answers to a gameshow like Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy, and you just want to strut your stuff...or maybe you're like me and you would rather just have no one looking in your direction in general. Yet, there’s something about being on TV that's so...exposing. It's not something that a lot of people, when it comes down to it, would want for their life. And yet, I think that realistically, everyone has their own TV show.

 

If you think about it this way, there are people who are watching your life day in and day out, whether you realize it or not. Each day is like a reality TV show where, maybe you're not broadcasting every moment of every day (or maybe you are), but chances are, there's someone observing or reacting to what you're doing and how you're living your life.

 

Here’s the thing, if that's true, what does your reality TV show look like? If you’re looking at mine, I work a lot, I go to Church a lot, I eat a lot, I sleep a lot, but what about the other things? It’s not just about what you’re doing. One of the biggest things about reality TV shows is not how you spend your time, but how you react to things, that really defines you as a person. How you react is definitive to this Christian walk. Not only we are showing that God is doing in our lives (who we are as people and who he’s making us to be), but some people aren't going to pick up a Bible at any point in their life, until you walk in to their life, until they look at your life and they’re like, “Wow, this guy has something, this guy has this love, this joy, this peace that I don't understand”. And you have the opportunity to be the Bible to them. I’m not saying in any way that we are the Way, the Truth, or the Life, but I am saying that we have a chance to enact that in the real world in a way that is so powerful and moving that we don't always recognize.. Every single time that we react in anger, or that we act out for whatever reason, that reflects poorly on more than just us. We are no longer living for ourselves anymore, we are living for Christ. Galatians 5:22 says that “25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” It doesn't get much simpler than that.

 

We have to recognize that no matter how introverted or extroverted we are, who you think is watching (or isn't paying attention), every day is your reality TV show. You may have a ton of viewers, your rating might be down, but the fact remains that every has an impact and a chance to be an influence to show who God is to people who might not see or hear that in a different setting. The more I look at our community and the social and political climate of our country, the more I recognize how much this world needs God. Growing up, I realized how much I needed Christ, but looking around, can you truly say that we are the only ones in need?

 

I want to challenge you to truly share the fruits of the spirit day in and day out, because your reality TV show can change lives. Not to be conceited, but I believe that God chooses to work through us and His people, just as much as he worked through the Israelites. As you go through this week, try to think about who are the people in your life that get to catch a glimpse of what God is doing in your life and how you react to situations. How can you improve upon those areas and use those instances to share Christ with others?

 

Father God, change our focus to remind us of the ways in which we have the opportunity to reflect more than just our mood or disposition. Allow us to see how every opportunity to improve our attitude or response is a chance to share You and show others what a life with You is like. Help us to live out our daily lives in a way that affects those around us, so that we can build your kingdom in this community. Help us to be witnesses where you have planted us and not to lose focus of what you are doing in our lives. Amen.

Matt Tyree

August 6, 2020

Hello everyone, my name is Cleris Christian.

 

I live right here in the Lansdale area with my family. I pray that during these times everybody is safe and healthy as my family is. So I thank God and I praise God for these times that though they are unimaginable, even though they seem rough, it’s actually a blessing in disguise in many ways just so that we are able to reflect on God more and spend time at home with our families. I’m enjoying this time being at home with my family, with my husband and with my two children, my son and my daughter. But right now our house is more full than it normally would be because usually we’re busy with outdoor activities but now we’re actually busy in the house with each other. So of course being together more than usual, also means that the house is full of activities. There are more things that are getting used up, there is more food that is being cooked, the sink is always full of dishes, you know the rooms are always full and we’re always doing activities together. And me being such a person who is a clean freak, am always constantly cleaning up after everyone. If I see things that are out of place and feel like it’s a mess, then I cannot rest, I cannot be at ease until I go and I fix it.

So during this weekend I was actually just cleaning out my bathroom and while I was cleaning, I just noticed some stains that were on the countertop. So of course I go to clean them up and while I’m cleaning with my regular sponge and soap and water, the stain wouldn’t come off. It seemed like the stain was much deeper than that. So of course I had to go towards more harsher cleansers and some more heavy duty cleaners and scrub little bit harder to get the stain off. And I was determined! The stain was stubborn but I too was stubborn. I was determined to get the stain off because if I didn’t, I would constantly notice it. People may not know it but since I know it’s there, it would always bother me so I was determined to get the stain off. So after a lot of scrubbing and a lot of cleaning using more of the harsh cleansers, I was finally able to get the stain off. Finally the counter top was nice and clean and back to normal, just the way I would like it.

This actually reminded me of what God is like towards our sin. You know there is no sin that is rough enough, there is no sin that is tough enough that God cannot cleanse us off. It is the devil who puts ideas into our heads, it is the devil who makes us think that our sin is so bad, that we’re like the filthy rag that can never be cleaned again. He makes us feel like that we have just gone too far this time; you know like that there’s nothing that can forgive us or there’s nothing that can cleanse us. But God‘s word reminds us that there is nothing that God cannot cleanse us out off. We may think our stain is too tough, our sin is so stubborn that it is so etched in our minds, hearts and in our lives that we think that we can never turn away from it. We think that we can never get away from it. But there is nothing that God can’t cleanse us off. 1 John 1:9 says that “if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. So as long as we recognize our sin, as long as we are repentant of it, we realize that the wrong that we’re doing and we come to God and we ask him to cleanse us, He really cleanses us. He has the ultimate cleanser in his hand which is the precious blood of Jesus! The precious blood of Jesus can cleanse us from any stain, anything that we have done in our lives.

So let’s not let the devil stop us from bringing our sin and shame to God but rather bring to him boldy to the throne of grace. Bring to Him all of our brokenness, bring to him all our sin and shame and say, Here Lord, here is my stain, here is my sin. I ask you to cleanse me out of it”. And I guarantee you that blood of Jesus can cleanse us from anything and is be able to save us from anything that we have done. Remember the more that we think that we’ve gone too far, remember Romans 5:20 says “When sin increases, His grace abounds even more”. When are sins are too many, God’s grace just keeps growing and growing towards us. So let’s not allow ourselves to feel discouraged and feel that I cannot go any further, that I am done with my sin and I’m stuck in it. But remember our sin may be great but God’s

grace is greater. So just come to God with all your sin and shame and make you white as snow again. Because the precious blood of Jesus can wash us from our sin and shame.

Would you pray with me: Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you Lord for giving us this wonderful reminder that our sins may be so many but your grace O Lord Jesus, abounds even more and more. Lord Jesus, this does not give us a right to continue in our sin but we pray that you give us a repentant heart, convict us by Your Holy Spirit that whenever we do something that is unpleasing in your eyes, you will convict us right away Lord Jesus and help us to bring you our filthy rags so that You can cleanse us and make us anew again. Lord, help us to live a life that brings you honor and glory so that in everything we do and say, people can recognize Jesus Christ in our lives. We pray all this in the mighty name of our Lord and our Savior alone, Jesus Christ. Amen!

Cleris Christian

August 4, 2020

Planning with the End in Mind 

Scripture Reading: Matthew 25:21 (The Passion) 

21 “Commending his servant, the master replied, ‘You have done well, and proven yourself to be my loyal and trustworthy servant. Because you have been a faithful steward to manage a small sum, now I will put you in charge of much, much more. You will experience the delight of your master, who will say to you, “Come celebrate with me!”’ 

 

Typically in August, I begin the hunt for the “Perfect Planner” for the new calendar year.  Over the years, I’ve narrowed down what the “Perfect Planner” looks like for me:  it needs tabs for each month, a sturdy cover, spiral binding, large blocks for each day of the month, etc. 

In looking over my planner for 2020 - it’s pretty hard to see what ACTUALLY happened over the last (7) months because so many things are crossed out, postponed, postponed again - and then at this point just CANCELLED altogether!  Every year, I love starting a new, clean book - and thinking about all the experiences (good & bad) that will fill its pages.  But, once my 2021 planner arrives, I’m pretty sure I’m only going to write in PENCIL, though… 

It’s hard to make ANY plans these days.  Schools gave options - in person, online or hybrid and then to online only.  Even at church - we met in person - no, only online, - back to in person and then back to online only.  Though, this coming Sunday, we’ll offer a hybrid at Immanuel:  In person OR online Sundays at 9am, 11am, or a whole new worship experience on Sunday nights in person, outside at 7:30pm…until we “pivot” again! 

I spent some time this weekend specifically asking the Lord for some clear direction on how to lead and live in the days ahead.  And the Spirit keeps bringing this verse from a parable of Jesus’ to mind from Matthew 25:21 -  

“Commending his servant, the master replied, ‘You have done well, and proven yourself to be my loyal and trustworthy servant. Because you have been a faithful steward to manage a small sum, now I will put you in charge of much, much more. You will experience the delight of your master, who will say to you, “Come celebrate with me!”’ 

Though there are certainly more applications for this verse, it seems as though we hear it most often quoted at the funerals of Christians.  There’s a sense of hope and purpose in the expectation of hearing these words when we see Jesus face-to-face at the end of this earthly chapter of life.  Who doesn’t want to hear those words from Jesus at the end of a lifetime of surrendering their time, plans, money, relationships, thoughts, desires - surrendering everything to Him?   

So with that end in mind, I’m inviting you on a weekly journey with me to ask and answer the question, “How should I be living NOW so that in the END I can hear Jesus greet me with a ‘well done!’ when I see Him face to face?” 

Over the last 10-15 years, I have routinely asked, prayed and then partnered with the Holy Spirit to answer some specific, intentional questions.  Questions that don’t necessarily depend on having certainty for what’s happening in the future.  Notice this in Proverbs 16:9 (ISV)... “A person plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”  How often have you asked God to give direction - or ‘determine your steps’?  It seems that sometimes - especially in days like these when it seems impossible to make a plan, or we feel paralyzed by fears for the days ahead or we don’t want to feel trapped by a decision that might not be exactly what we want or expect, are overwhelmed by too many choices or we’re simply apathetic and give in to a sense of “who cares” or “I’ll just wait for someone to tell me what to do” - we simply make NO plan?!?  

Could it be, that without the initiative on our part - without some action on our behalf - we just might not be able to hear or ‘find’ God’s plan for our life?  Though I’ve often wished that God would just write down what I’m supposed to do, He’s never done that yet!  Most often, His direction comes (or I can actually hear and see some of the next steps) as I begin to take action and actually get to work on a plan. 

So - do you want to join me?  Grab a blank notebook and each Tuesday, I’ll give you a new question or two that I’m also asking myself - to determine where I AM and where I sense I SHOULD BE GOING with regard to how I spend my time and money; my mental, emotional, physical and spiritual health.  Let’s start with an easy topic for this week:  My Relationships.  Write that title across the top of a blank page and then think about the people in your life and the relationships that God has put around you - and just start adding names to these categories: 

People I live with 

My immediate family (these might be parents & siblings or your spouse and children) 

My extended family (adult siblings and their spouse/kids; grandparents; aunts/uncles/cousins; in-laws, etc.) 

Closest friends 

Neighbors 

Co-workers 

Church Friends 

Lifelong/Long-Distant/Family Friends 

People who Mentor Me (pour into me…who I go to for good, godly advice or professional/career direction, etc.) 

People who I am/could be investing in (someone YOU can pour into because you’ve been a Christian longer, or married  

longer or parented longer than they have, or lived in town longer, been in your company longer, etc.) 

 

Ask God to bring people to mind as you literally write names down under these categories, and we’ll unpack what to do with this list next week.   

Happy Tuesday! 

Pastor Ann

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