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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

He’s Greater!

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

1 John 4:4

How can I even begin this devotional without embedding MercyMe’s Greater? That’s right. I can’t.

I think the song about sums it up and gives a great pep talk. How can you not feel like an overcomer after clapping along to that!?

If contemporary Christian music isn’t really your vibe and that did not feel like a proper devotional, no worries! Let’s meditate on the verse for a moment: “the one living in you is greater than the one who is living in the world.” Who lives inside us? The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, lives in us.

Who lives in the world? People we don’t like: murderers, thieves, annoying aunts who kiss you too much at Thanksgiving, dads who don’t respect boundaries while you’re a growing teen, overbearing bosses, a neighbor who refuses to cut his lawn, a boyfriend who beats you, a wife with a shopping addiction that’s causing bankruptcy… I mean, everyone lives in the world. Right?

When you’re thinking about these people, as hard as it may be, I want you to remember Ephesians 6:12. If we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against the evil spirits who wish to do us harm and influence those with flesh and blood let’s come back to our verse for today:

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

1 John 4:4

How do we know God is greater?

Because of the Resurrection. Because Jesus overcame Death and broke the Gates of Hell. This article by Joe Rigney at DesiringGod is a great look into Jesus overcoming death. Because let’s remember, brothers and sisters, the wage of sin is death. That is the ultimate price. When Jesus went to the Cross he paid that price and declared “It is finished!” Our debt is paid. The Holy Spirit, the same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, now lives in us.

And that is why he who lives in us far greater than anyone in this world.

Blessings,
Karissa

Mediator of the New Covenant

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We’ve all been there before, haven’t we? Ever make a mistake that resulted in making someone feel disappointed or hurt? It’s pretty much part of human nature that we say or do things at times that end up hurting someone else. So when that happens, how do you make amends? Do you take the person out to dinner? Buy them a small gift? Or simply just say sorry and hope that is good enough?

In the Old Testament, God established a set of rules with Moses, and in turn, the Israelites, for how they were supposed to atone for their sins. In Leviticus Chapter 4, God explains different possible sin scenarios and the type of animal sacrifice that is supposed to be made as a burnt offering to God. In each of the cases, the offering is to be of an animal of some sort without blemish. We have seen animal sacrifices to God in chapters previous to Leviticus, such as God sparing Abraham’s son by providing a ram caught in a thicket, or the Israelites sacrificing unblemished lambs in what became known as the Passover. In much of ancient history, people made animal sacrifices (or sometimes even human sacrifices) to please their gods.

wpid-wp-1426785893998But then something majorly different happened when God provided a different sacrifice. That being His own, and only, son, who also was without blemish. In Hebrews 9:11-14, the writer tells us that the animal sacrifices of the past sanctify to make us outwardly clean. However, the sacrifice to end all sacrifices, that Christ, cleansed us in a completely different way. It cleansed our soul. And so we get to verse 15 then: For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. As a mediator, He is a go-between, or a liason, between us and God. He provides a new promise to us. Since the fall of man way back in Genesis, we have been slaves to sin. Throughout the Old Testament and up until Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, mankind had to make regular sacrifices to atone for their sins. But now there is a new sheriff in town; a new agreement has been made. That agreement is that there is no sacrifice that can substitute the blood of Christ. We are promised life eternal because of this one unselfish act by someone who was without blemish; one who did not deserve to die. But because of His unselfishness, we are saved from our own selfishness. Because that’s basically what every sin that exists really amounts to; selfishness on our part. Thanks be to God for His unending love.

Jesus, Briefly Speaking

John 1:1-14

Commentary:  This passage amounts to a review…This “Word” (v. 1) equates to the Greek word “Logos” which means an idea or concept not simply letters bunched together that form an article of a language…Thinking of Jesus like this differs from thinking of Him as one normally does…This “concept” created all that exists, including light (vv. 2-5)…John the Baptist was the installed witness to this “Word” (vv. 6-8) apparently representing the OT prophets (cp. 1:29-45, 3:27-30)…The world rejects this “idea” (vv. 9-13), despite the gifts (vv. 12-13) it bares…The phrase “power to become children of God” (v. 12) is indicative of a definite relationship…Parents are positively related to their kids, despite lawyerly disputes over them in our court system…Some kids are better than others (cp. 1 John 2:28-3)…This Word “dwelt among us” harkens to the OT tabernacle where YHWH, through Moses, was consulted (Ex. 33:7-11, Num. 8, 17:8-13)…What we have is a choice, a decision on which side of this “idea” or “concept” we’re on…This choice is made by each of us on a moment by moment basis.

All People Are Welcome

Acts 10:34-46 (NRSV)

34 Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all.

God shows “no favoritism,” “no partiality,” and is “no respecter of persons” (depending on your translation of the Bible) when it comes to loving people and accepting anyone who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Here the story is told of Peter sharing the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with Cornelius and his family and friends.  They are Gentiles. Here we see Gentiles, non Jews, accepting Jesus Christ and receiving the Holy Spirit.  That was a social barrier, which was crossed with the Good News of Jesus Christ.  This is huge.

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people” (I Timothy 2:3-6, NIV).  

Christianity, the Good News of Jesus Christ is a universal religion and faith.  Christianity more than any other religion has welcomed people of all nations, races, and geography into the Church and a relationship with the one true God of all.

Jesus Christ, is indeed Lord and Savior for all the world, for all who call upon him for eternal life and abundant life here on earth.  Celebrate the Lord Jesus and share him with everyone you know.

 

A God who Rewards Those Who Earnestly Seek Him

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and the He rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

In our culture, when we hear the word “reward” we instantly think of something extra–a bonus. Wouldn’t you agree? You were rewarded for your good behavior in class with a star sticker, you were rewarded for you diligence at work with a bonus, or you reward your dog for being a good boy with a treat.

As a young believer, I am always cautious when the idea of a “reward” comes up in Biblical text. I walk cautiously on the idea of the Prosperity Gospel because there is nothing in the Bible that says Christians are going to have it on Easy Street. In fact, the Gospel’s speak of Christ’s suffering and the letters warn the Early Church about coming persecution and suffering.

So, what does Paul mean by “rewarded” in Hebrews 11:6?

I did a little digging. This term means more of paying what is due. Which, when we look to John 19:30 when Jesus says, “It is finished,” he is also talking about fulfilling a debt--paying what is due. He is paying for the wrath of God with himself rather than us. He is paying our debt.

Brothers and Sisters, this post is not to make you think that the abundant life promised in John 10:10 is not true. This post is not to make you think the land of milk and honey is not an oasis in these dark times.

This is simply a reminder that when we earnestly seek God our will begin to align with His. When our will aligns with His then you will be amazed at how God gives (rewards if you will) you your heart’s desires.

Keep seeking God, my friends, earnestly. Allow your mind to be renewed and transformed. You’ll be amazed at what He reveals about Himself and how He provides for you in abundant ways that you had never dreamed of before.

Blessings,
Karissa

Watching for God’s Word

Jeremiah 1:12

It is easy to watch the birds to return, the flowers bloom and the tree buds become leaves.  What is really hard is to watch for God’s word.  What are we looking for?  What does it look like?  Who is doing it?  Our first reaction is that we don’t know, we don’t know and it sure is not us.  But are you sure?

Being a Night Deacon I have answers very quickly:  Saturday morning pancake breakfast, school lunch program, homeless shelter ministry.  You do not have to be a church officer to be seeking and carrying our God’s word.  Opening a door with a smile, giving a word of encouragement, really asking how someone is doing,  wishing a person well.  It does not have to be a big event but a small gesture filled with God’s love can share the love of God.  That is why I end my blog with Shalom.  I want you to have peace, contentment, wholeness, well being, just plain feeling good. So watch for and carry out God’s word.

Shalom Mark.

The Son

Hebrews 1:3

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

How do you know God, when you cannot see God? How do you get to understand the depth of who God is?

For some of the people in the Old Testament, those questions where easy to answer, especially when you had experienced all the miracles and seen all the signs they witness too. But how about you and me in today’s world?

For us discovering God comes in the way of His Son, Jesus. Too many times we get caught in the arguments of what God is doing or thinking about this or that. Or where is God when this or that happens. It is at those times that I want to remind anyone that we had been there before, there is nothing new under the sun, and God indeed walked and showed us his ways through his Son.

Do you know the Son? Are you familiar with who he is? Do you understand his ways? If so, you are closer to understanding God than you thought.

Today I pray that you can experience the Risen Christ in a new way and that you can look at the world around you and discover the fullness of God in all the things that surround you.

Be blessed,

Bo m.

 

Foundations…

Today’s Passages (all 1 link):  Isaiah 28:16 and John 1:1-18

Well folks, today is my last blog post for First Pres-Joliet.  The past several years of this blog have been a real joy both in writing and seeing the growth of others along the way.

Today’s topic may simply be coincidental, but, I think it provides the foundation (no pun intended) for a final blog post.  In today’s volatile culture, pretty much anything you say is interpreted by the biases and filters of others.  To some extent, even blogging about the church etc, can bring the same responses.  So, while there may be a small amount of angst with the idea of retirement on June 1 simply because it is something new and “never done before”, I am confident that this unknown rests on my one sure conviction…my foundation in Jesus.

As I watch so much anger and hatred towards others, I think about the words of Isaiah: a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation: “One who trusts will not panic.”  I often wonder what might happen if we humans were not so demanding of our own way or if we truly tried to live out what it means to love our neighbor – those we like and those we don’t.  What might happen if there is a possibility that there may be another opinion other than our own?  And then, the words of John’s gospel ring out, “He (Jesus) came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him.”  

Devotional Thought:  Claiming to be a Christian – a follower of Jesus – requires more than lip service.  Claiming to be a disciple of Jesus means that we are to stand for that which is right not by beating people over the heads through our words or, worse, through violence.  For example, this past weekend the PurdueCrew gathered for the Indy 500 – 34 races for this group of individuals with a wide variety of opinions.  What started as roommates at Purdue in 1977 for some of us has blossomed into a lifelong friendship of 16 people who gather together as often as 3 times every year.  There are different religious beliefs – some of us are Presbyterians, some Methodists, Roman Catholic and Lutheran…we have opposing political opinions and differing thoughts on tough issues like abortion and LBGTQ – just to name a few.  Why even this last weekend there was a difference of opinion on how to play Euchre and what kind of beer or pizza we liked!!  But…as we all left to return to our homes we were not filled with what divided us but the foundation of our lifelong friendships – all of us knowing that if any one of us were in need, we would respond.

Friends, claiming to be a disciple of Jesus means living out his example to the best of our individual abilities even when the going gets tough or when we are divided because of differing opinions.  Why? Because we are supposed to trust in our one sure foundation and not panic.  That one sure foundation is Jesus!

It has been a privilege to write for each of you…more importantly, to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ for his Church gathered here on earth.  I pray God’s blessings on each of you…that you will be blessed by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit today and always!!  Amen.

 

 

Faithful & True

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Revelation 19:11-16

John 14:6

John 1:1

My verse to focus on today was supposed to be Revelation 19:11. In this one simple verse, there is a lot said, and yet at the same time, not enough. One of the many things that I’ve learned about studying scripture over time, starting with a class taught by Pastor Dale several years ago, is that in order to best understand what is going on, you need to read what is happening before and after a short passage to get the full meaning. So, in doing that, I realized that you really need to have verses 11-16 to get the full scoop here.

Something that stands out as you first see and read verse 11 is that the words Faithful and True are capitalized, meaning that they are proper nouns and they are referring to Jesus. When you read through verse 16, you learn Jesus is leading an army of angels into battle against the beast. We first are introduced to the beast in Revelation 13. The beast, in conjunction with the dragon (or serpent as I saw in one translation) have been leading the people of the world astray. In chapter 13, the beast is described as having 10 heads, which, in a commentary I read to prepare for this blog, represents the nations. Its 10 crowns are the kings or princes of those nations. But Jesus, with his army of angels, strike down the beast and the nations.

As I was reading through other parts of Revelation to prepare for this, I found in Chapter 16 that God sent plagues to the Earth to urge the people to repent, and even though they suffered greatly, they cursed God and didn’t repent. In their blindness to their Earthly ways, as promoted by the beast, they couldn’t see the forest for the trees as they say. They were too short sighted to see that the only Way, the only Truth, the only Faithful master lies in the Word of God. And so, this led to their demise by His righteous judgment and war.

He is called Faithful and True, as well as the Word of God. Jesus was referred to each of these in the Gospel of John. Of course John 1 begins with “In the beginning was the Word.” And later in John 14, Jesus says he is The Way, the Truth, and the Life. We see those names come out again here in Revelation as justification for His judgment and His war. His words ARE TRUTH because HE IS GOD, and HE IS FAITHFUL to His Father.

 

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