First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @

Timeless Words

1 Peter 5:1-11

In this short passage there are several different takeaways that can be immediately applied to our daily lives. In the first paragraph, we hear that we are to be willing and eager servants, and to lead by example. In verse 6, we are told to be humble and to give all anxiety in our lives to God because he cares about us. Next, we are told to beware of the devil and to stand firm in our faith. Finally, we are reminded that God is always there for us, and even though we may go through sufferings from time to time, He will restore us and make us strong.

I think of a simple prayer that I learned a while back that goes something like this: “Father in heaven, fill me with your spirit and guide me through this day.” I would like to add to that prayer these words: “May you guide me to lead by example, so they will know I am Christian by my love. Please, Lord, keep me humble, that I may not become too boastful. Protect me from the enemy and help me to remain faithful to you. Finally, thank you, God, for always being there for me, and for bringing me out from the depths of my suffering. I trust in you always. Amen.”

Faith because of God’s love

  • 1 John 4:18-19
    18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us.

    Last week I was talking with a dear friend and catching up about life and all the things going on in their life.As the conversation went on, I was overwhelmed by one thought: Love for God trumps fear. Fear of the unknown, fear for the future seemed to face away in the presence of faith in God.

    I have to admit that this is in many ways a strange concept for today’s world. We tend to worry about tomorrow, we let fear conquer our lives without even realizing how it will affect us. In many of the conversations that we have, if we pay close attention to what is said, we find people worried, or carrying a certain feeling of worrying. And that is normal. We are human after all. But as Christians we cannot let ourselves get stuck there. We have to go beyond worrying, and uncertainty. We have to go the place where we remember who we are in Christ, and letting God’s love be our strength and source of life for anything that life might bring our way.

    It is this reality of living in Christ, that helps us move on when the storms come in our lives. It is faith that keeps us moving on, when everything else around us seemed to try to stop us.

    Today I pray that we all can grasp the love that God has for us, and the way God provides for us time and time again.

    Be blessed,

    Bo M.

The Church…

247348da415b21a249bc6f0095bde6e9If you want to know how a community of faith should live…1 Corinthians 13 provides a deep and intense picture for us.  It also provides a huge challenge.  Simply put…a church must do more than believe!  The church must be a church of faith, hope and most importantly, love.  We Christians may possess any and even many spiritual gifts…but…without love, each gift is useless.  The same is true for the gathered body of Christ…the church.

What good is it to believe in Christ – the epitome of love himself – if hate is harbored individually or in the church?  Paul uses the word love – agape – meaning, love of the undeserving…love that gives.  The reality of this love for us as Christians and the Church is found in Romans 5:8, “God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”

The Church must do more than believe… I’ve been reading lately about Auschwitz and the internal crisis the Jewish people had with other humans who wanted to eliminate the entire Jewish population from the face of the earth and, yet, go to church on Sunday…Nazis reading Scripture and singing hymns along with German Christians who “exalted the racially pure nation and the rule of Hitler as God’s will for the German people” (PCUSA Confession of Faith – Declaration of Barmen, May 1934).

A Church of faith is not measured by it’s successes – Why?  Because God’s definition of success and the world’s definition are diametrically opposing.  God’s idea of success for individuals and his Church is the cross…agape love…love of the undeserving…love that gives.  In May 1934 some in the churches resisted. Among those few determined church leaders who did oppose the church’s captivity to National Socialism were pastors Hans Asmussen, Karl Koch, Karl Iraruer, and Martin Niemoller, and theologian Karl Barth.

The Church in this world is the Church under the sign of the cross…where faith, hope and love combine to lead all who claim to follow Christ into the world.  This Sunday…as you go OUT the doors of First Presbyterian Church you will be going into a world that is begging for faith, hope and love.  The Church must do more than believe…

While I encourage all to read a confession of faith prepared in a terribly atrocious period of time, I offer the following – Sections 8.17 and 8.18 regarding “The Church”:

“The Christian Church is the congregation of the brethren in which Jesus Christ acts presently as the Lord in Word and Sacrament through the Holy Spirit. As the church of pardoned sinners, it has to testify in the midst of a sinful world, with its faith as with its obedience, with its message as with its order, that it is solely his property, and that it lives and wants to live solely from his comfort and from his direction in the expectation of his appearance.  We reject the false doctrine, as though the church were permitted to abandon the form of its message and order to its own pleasure or to changes in prevailing ideological and political convictions.”  Amen

Mindset, Attitude Adjustment


Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV)

Our mindset, our attitude shapes how we see life, the Lord, and other people.

The Pharisee in Luke 18 has an arrogant attitude toward others; he is better than other people.  There’s no doubt in his mind and he tells God all about his superiority in his prayer.  He doesn’t need anything from God.  The Tax Collector, in absolute humility. begs God for mercy.  He falls before God understanding that he has tremendous need for grace.

Jesus was humble, although God the Son, equal with God, coming to earth to empty himself and serve.  He emptied himself so much so, that he would allow people to crucify him to death.  Jesus served well, with an attitude we all can imitate as we seek to follow him and serve well, that others may know that he is Lord, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Our attitude shapes our mindset; that is how we see others. how we see God, and how we serve others and follow Jesus.  Sometimes I need an attitude adjustment that I might walk humbly with God, remember the extraordinary grace of the Lord Jesus to me, and then serve humbly and faithfully.

How is your attitude today?  Do you have a mindset to humbly ask God for mercy and to joyfully serve others in Christ’s name? Do you need an attitude adjustment like me?

Yes, our Attitude is significant but Jesus is everything.

RE: Leadership

On the political trails, one hears comments such as “he did such-and-such and that disqualifies him from being such-and-such” or “she prevented such-and-such from happening by having such-and-such influence…and therefore she never be elected such-and-such.”  I need to give my thoughts freedom on the subject of leadership. To  begin, let us review the biblical record of five noteworthy men – two led the nation Israel, one saved a great city from destruction, and the last two are keenly responsible for the spread of Christianity in the Roman Empire and our understanding of it.

Moses had difficulties communicating (Ex. 4:10).  In his youth in Egypt, he killed someone and “covered it up”(Ex. 2:11-12) the ran.   Eventually, he suffered the consequences of this act (Deut. 32:48-52).  He was known to have fits of anger and suffered from a lack of faith (Num. 20:7-13).

Jonah was a stubborn and disobedient (1:3).  He was a belligerent complainer (4:1-3) that caused great difficulties not only for himself but, also for innocent sailors (1:4-9) who were not remotely responsible for his forced business trip to Nineveh.

David, the one referred to being “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14), led a troubled life.  He had difficulty telling the truth (2 Sam. 11:7-8, 12-13), with covetousness (2 Sam. 11:3), with stealing (2 Sam. 12:9), with adultery (2 Sam. 11:4), and he was a murderer (2 Sam. 11:17, 12:9).  By my reckoning, that’s an infraction of half of our Ten Commandments.

Saul began his public life as a Pharisee and a persecutor of the early church (Acts 7:58, 8:3).  After a change of heart and name to Paul (Acts 9:1-22) his attitude changed.  Nevertheless, he was known for his temper (Acts 16:18), his arrogance (Acts 16:37), his disrespectful attitude towards others (Acts 23:3), and led a life fraught with risk taking  (2 Cor. 11:24-27).

Peter, the so called “rock” (Matt. 16:18), was not exactly a scholar or a gentleman (Acts 4:13) at the start of his ministry.  He was known to be irritable and angry (Jn. 18:10).  These two led to a preponderance of hasty and, at times, rash (Luke 22:31-34) decisions.

Of course, all of these leaders had positive attributes.  No person is perfectly bad.  Chief among their positive characteristics was their overall faith and willingness to work with God to further His kingdom.  That’s the rub.  Which of our present day candidate(s) seems more open to God’s leading?  Which candidate(s) do you think God prefers?  These are difficult questions to answer, especially based on their highly checkered past.

History seems to suggest that good leaders of a society came from societies that were, generally speaking, good.  And vise versa.  Dickens penned something like “…every person living is a profound mystery…”  Nevertheless, withstanding these bits as a backdrop, we must still decide.  It would be useful to have knowledge of what makes these people really tick, unfortunately we can’t.  Only God can (Ps. 44:17-21).  We are left to ponder and especially to pray about it.


The Psalm of the Precious Secret

Psalm 57

I had a High School class ring that was made from gold and engraved with symbols representing the school and my personal interests. It was unique to me, and had a secret: engraved on the inside of the band was my signature. My ring was a Miktam, a golden, precious, inscription that commemorated an important period of my life.

At the beginning of Psalm 57 we are told that David was hiding in the caves from Saul when this was written, and it is a “Miktam” of David. Reading it and looking for an overall theme, I got a little more curious about what a Miktam was. So I did what most of us do these days, and asked the Google Machine. Can I just say that I love Google because of the doors it opened and insight gained from asking a simple question: Definition of Miktam. I think I could write a whole essay on this, exceeding the scope of our focus here, so I’ll give you some highlights and ask you to dig deeper and read more today as we study the word the word together. I hope some of you will share your own insights with us later in the comments. So, here goes:

Bible scholars and translators don’t necessarily agree on the meaning of the word Miktam, but the most common interpretations are that it is a musical or technical term (makes sense); there are 5 other Psalms labeled “Miktams” (16, 56, 58,59,60); and the ancient meaning of the word was something like golden, precious, or an inscription. Some have even suggested that the Miktams contain a precious secret. In the Bible commentary, Treasury of David, Charles Spurgeon refers to this collection as “The Psalm of the precious secret.”

Psalm 57 and the others in this collection start with lamenting danger and persecution and pleading to God for help, then change course in the middle and end with great praises and exaltation of the God who saves and is personally present. According to Skip Moen in his blog “Hebrew Word Study,” this is unusual because to the ancient Jewish reader, the scripture and words from God were tied to community and God saving and protecting Isreal, making a personal plea unique for the time. So, “If a miktam is a poem about personal deliverance in the face of danger, then we all need a miktam…YHWH is MY God and he cares for ME! (Moen)”

I’ve included the link to Skip Moen’s blog and hope you will read it and further follow the link to see Spurgeon’s entire comment on this Psalm ( ). Then, like my class ring that was engraved with a cross, musical symbols, and the Armor of God, create your own Miktam today. A prayer, a poem, a picture, a reminder of any sort that we have a personal God who listens to each of us individually while caring for all peoples.



Conquering the Distance


Ephesians 6:11-17

Hebrews 12: 1-3

I don’t like to miss church all that often. But next Sunday will be one of those weekends when I won’t be around. Instead, I will be completing a journey that originally began back in the spring. I will be making my second attempt at the Naperville Half Marathon. For those of you thinking (or saying out loud) that I am crazy, remember that I am only half crazy, because I didn’t choose to do the full marathon.

All kidding aside, for those of you who may have dabbled with running as a hobby, or maybe have run a 5K or two in your lifetime may know that running isn’t an easy habit to take up, and to run a half marathon, let me tell you, it takes an enormous commitment to train for such a long run. So, why do I do it? Why would anyone in their right mind choose to train for a race that will take me a little over 2 hours to complete? One reason of course was because I wanted to work on my personal fitness.

But another reason takes me back to Jim Mullins’ sermon from last week about getting closer to God by being in nature. I have always been an outdoor animal. I love to fish. I love to golf. I love to camp. But those things take huge chunks of time in one lump sum to complete, which I don’t always find the time for. But I can get out on the road for a quick 3 mile run and only be gone about a half hour. And that half our escape allows me to get away from the everyday grind, take in some fresh air, lose myself in the music coming from my iPod, and melt off the built-up stress from the everyday grind. It is a way that I can connect with God.

In the same way that it is important to train and keep up with training when taking on a half marathon, the same is true about training for everyday living in general. If we are going to be successful Christian people, we need to train for the things we will encounter on a day to day basis and how God intends for us to handle those things. Of course showing up on Sundays can be and should be part of that training, we need more. We need to dive into scripture on a daily basis.

To put on the armor of God is to know and study the Bible. I have heard many people on a regular basis say things like “the Bible is so old and outdated.” Sure it was written 2000 or more years ago, and there is no mention of smart phones, social media, or reality television. But I find passages all the time that still apply, even today. Take the scripture passages above. We can shield ourselves from the evils of this world by knowing and understanding the Bible. We are called to run the race of life with perseverance, just as Jesus persevered over death and the cross, and the scorn he faced throughout his ministry.

I’m ready to take on my race next weekend because of the blood, sweat, and tears of my training. In the same way, I am more prepared today than yesterday to take on the world because of the training I receive through my reading and study of scripture, and attending Sunday service on a regular basis. How’s your (life) training going?

How Holy Is Holy

Matthew 9.3-5

Duet. 15.9

2 Corinthians 7.1

Starting off with the passage from Paul in the context of his call to the Corinthian church to be pure, quoting a tapestry of scripture to “come out from their midst and be separate,” and “do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you,”  for we are the temple of YHWH.  Chapter 7.1 “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of YHWH.”

The whole concept of separation from the world, as Craig Randolph recently blogged, seems to me to be the same as holiness. Through out scripture we are told to live pure lives out of respect and love for God our savior.  But what a queer message that is today.  The message we are taught in modern Christianity is to get along with our neighbor at all costs, to walk a mile in his shoes, to bear his burden, and to never offend him by being different, and/or holier than thou.  Talking about religion is strictly taboo, and to be seen with a Bible in your house, car, or hand is outrageous, pushy, and pretentious, (well maybe not in your house.)

The scriptures are clear about living a holy life and sin in a Christians life, we are called to “be Holy as your Father in heaven is Holy,” “perfecting holiness in the fear of YHWH.”  Holiness has to do with our commitment to God.  If we are completely committed we will most likely be very aware of sin creeping into our lives. Sin comes in primarily three categories, sins of commission, those are the things we do that are not pleasing to God, deliberate actions. Sins of omission, those are the things we should have done yet didn’t, because we were indifferent, faithless, lazy, etc.  The last is, sins of our thought life.  Not to be confused with a passing temptation, as all sin starts with a thought, it’s what we do with that thought.  Do we act on it, or do we harbor it, relishing the very concept of it, or do we discard it.  Jesus in Matt. 5.28 describes the thought life, Prov. 24.9 warns of foolish thought, Duet. 15.9 tells of base thoughts,  Matt. 9.4  says Jesus knew their evil thoughts,  James 1.14 reveals each one is tempted when carried away by his own lust.

If we truly want to live holy lives, we will be aware of, and concerned with sin in our lives. I John 1.9 tells us that we can confess our sins and Jesus will be faithful to forgive us.  I Cor. 11.28  “But let a man examine himself…”As we live holy lives we will find that we are naturally separate from the world, and they, the world, will take note of it. At least that has been the case in my life. Not that I am saying I live more holy than you, but people do notice when Christ is in you.  Weekly confession, though very appropriate in our services at 1st Pres., is not often enough in my opinion, but daily examination and confession. I know my wife would not be appeased with a weekly apology of my dastardly life style and offenses committed against her, so I believe it is with our Father in heaven.

This is supposed to be a blog, not a book, or even a remotely complete thought on holiness.  It is not an accusation against anyone, or group, but merely a reminder to us of truth we already know.  Let us live our lives in holiness and by every means attempt to be pleasing to God in all that we do and say.  Amen









Yay God!

The Ark Encounter is a one-of-a-kind historically themed attraction in Williamstown, Kentucky.

Today’s devotion comes from Genesis 6:9-7:11 – a lesson we can learn from a man named Noah. Most church-going people can say something about Noah…like God asking Noah to build a big boat – a boat, an ark, about 4 times the size of a luxury yacht.  A big boat that would hold birds and animals – 2 of every kind…male and female.  Along with all of these birds and animals, Noah was to ensure enough food existed for the birds and animals along with the 8 human passengers:  Noah and his wife along with Noah’s 3 sons and their wives.

Now…it is easy to get lost in questions like: What do you think it smelled like on that ark or do you think it was ever quiet?  Good questions but hardly important in this passage.  What is important is why Noah built that ark.  Noah did what God instructed him to do because Noah walked with God…Noah trusted God.  Noah trusted God to keep his promise…that God’s covenant would be with Noah and the other 7 passengers on that ark along with all those animals and birds.

This past Wednesday evening at our mid-week worship service I used an example that many of us…in fact, I would bet that each of us is very familiar with in our own lives.  Parents often ask their children to do things like make their bed or clean their rooms.  The response many times is one that is, lets say, less than obedient.  Yet the children trust the parents promise to take care of them, put food on the table, and protect them.

So, let me ask this question:  Do you trust God?  Today is a new day…a fresh start…a new creation.  We humans make promises – we make commitments…all sorts of things we promise to do.  Sometimes, we humans don’t always do what we say we are going to do.  God’s promises are different…do you trust God?  And, if you trust God, will you walk with God?  And, if you trust God and will walk with God…will you listen for the “big boat” he asks you to build?

Here’s the closing prayer we used Wednesday evening:

God promised Noah a love that would never end…and the people respond, “Yay God!”

The promise God made for Noah is also for us…and the people respond, “Yay God!”

God will never stop loving us no matter what…and the people respond, “Yay God!”

We can trust God’s promise…and the people respond, “Yay God!”


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