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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Bring Secret Sins to Light

A Lamp on a Stand

21 He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? 22 For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.23 If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”

24 “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

Mark 4:21-25

I blogged on the first verse earlier this year. You can read that here.

But let’s move onto the next part. “For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.” This verse reminds me of Ephesians 5:8-14.

I have a hard question for you all this morning: What is your secret sin?

We all have one. Sometimes we’re aware of them (impure thoughts, substance abuse, lying) and some sins are more subtle that we may not even recognize it as sin (putting an idol like money before God, pride, ignoring those in need).

Exposing a secret sin is hard work.

But it’s rewarding work. Remember, Christ came to set us free. This freedom is from ourselves and our sinful ways. If you are caught in a sin, no matter how much worldly pleasure you may derive from it, I bet you feel trapped by it. You could be afraid someone will find out, you could be afraid of being caught, you could be losing values, family time, or even money. Maybe shame from your sin is keeping you trapped.

Shame is one of the heaviest shackles.

Brothers and sisters, I encourage you to allow that secret sin to come to light. I encourage you to find someone you trust and confess. James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” Confess to God. Repent–turn away. And if you slip up? Confess, repent, repeat. The more you fight this sin that has a hold on you the easier the battle becomes.

Surround yourself with believers, bathe yourself in prayer, and allow Christ to shine on you–allow Him to put light in the darkest parts of you.

Blessings,
Karissa

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Who do you see?

Luke 14:7-14

Do you remember planning the reception for your wedding? Looking at all the names of people you have to invite verses the ones you want to invite? And then try to find the best way to sit them around the tables, in a way that makes everyone happy? I do remember that, and if I am to be honest it was a little hellish, let’s leave it at that.

As people, we are wired to see others in certain ways, sometimes is based on our upbrigning, or personal experiences and sometimes just based on cultural expectations. Jesus in many ways wants to challange that understanding of who we see and who we honor. For Jesus, there is a new standard at play, in very few words: the least of these.

So, who is the least of these today? Who do you see when you interact with those around you? What is the motivation of reaching out to those you meet?

Those are some good questions to bring into the conversation, even today when we seem to be divided on so many issues. Christ’s message in many ways goes so much farther than the surface like and dislike button on our facebook page, it goes to the heart and motivation of everything that we are.

Today, I pray that you will accept Christ challenge to look at the world through that lens of “the least of these” and open your heart as you welcome the world into your life.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Life’s one question…

Matthew 25:31-46

Matthew’s image of Judgment Day comes at the close of Jesus’ public ministry.  It is also Jesus’ last primary teaching before his death.  Such placement must punctuate importance. This last message is a real moment of truth when history ends…When the Son of Man comes in his glory.

Predicting the end of the world has been a past time of many over the centuries and here in Matthew, in about 400 words, Jesus provides a glimpse of truth that one day will be fully revealed. A glimpse of truth that there is an eternity of difference in people now and throughout history.

But you already know that…right?  Look around, listen and watch.  All the name calling and gossip. People talking about hating other people in one breath and claiming God is love in another breath.  Judging others on outward appearances.  Today’s text tells us that this kind of judging is none of our business.  It is God’s alone.

Today’s text resurrects one question about this eternity of difference in people.  Jesus is teaching his disciples prior to his death and preparing them for responding to this eternity of difference when he is no longer physically present with them.  Teaching them lessons of life that began with the Sermon on the Mount.  Teaching them…Only those who do the will of my Father in heaven will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  (Matt  7:21) Therefore, everyone who hears these words and puts them into practice is like a wise person who built his house on the rock.  (Matt 7:24 ) And, for small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it. (Matt 7:14 ) Maybe no greater reinforcement comes when Jesus says, I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father, except through me. (John 14:6)

Judgment is an ugly word today in our world and to be judged is offensive to so many.  Many just can’t stomach a day of judgment in the Bible.  But, if you read and study this passage – the whole Bible for that matter – I hope you will realize that judgment is about truth.  Bringing truth to light about human behavior and the relationships of life.

Friends, we know that it is by grace we are saved and it is by grace that we are called to faith. How we live out this faith, has been the teaching of Jesus throughout Matthew.  The eternity  of difference in people comes down to a clear standard of measurement.  One question.  The one question today and on that day of judgment deals with how our faith has been lived out.  The one question Jesus will ask is this:  How did you respond to the need of others?

Devotional Thought:  In our text today, both the sheep and the goats respond in the same way. Both were unaware of their words and actions in life.  Kindness, hospitality, compassion and generosity are not things done for a calculated response – they are a natural and unmotivated response to the need of others out of real faith in Jesus.

The Talents and Mina

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Matthew 19:12-27

In this parable, Jesus tells of a master who is going off to be made king. While he is away, he has entrusted a few of his servants with 10 mina each. The master gives them free will to do as they please with the money while he is gone. When he returns, he finds that one servant has doubled his mina, and that servant receives a reward of being put in charge of 10 cities. A second servant has increased his mina by 5, and he is put in charge of 5 cities. But the third servant hides his mina to protect it because he fears his master. Another element of this parable is that there are servants who plot to kill their master, who they think is a cruel leader, and they don’t want him to be king.

This parable is a story about what we do with the talents that we are blessed to have. Whether we realize it or not, we all have certain talents. We are called to use those talents in a way that furthers the Kingdom of God. If we use those talents properly, we will be rewarded when the King returns. The king in the parable is Jesus, who goes away from this Earth, but will one day return to judge us by our deeds. The better we use our talents, the more we will do to increase His kingdom, and our reward will be greater. Those who hide away their talents and do nothing for the kingdom will be denied any reward. Finally, the servants plotting to kill their master relates to Judas and the Pharisees who plot to kill Jesus. Or they could just be anyone who speaks evil or plot evil against God and His people in general. The time will come when they will have to face the consequences, which will be a spiritual death.

Although there is some doom and gloom in this parable, I’d like to look on the positive side of things. I think…no, I KNOW…that we all have something to bring to the table that can further God’s Kingdom. And it doesn’t have to be fancy, or something that is overly challenging, or involve going on international mission trips. It doesn’t have to involve quoting scripture or preaching a sermon. Of course all of those things ARE important and DO make a difference. But, it can also be simple things like how we have conversations with people on bowling night. Or it could be a smile and handshake or hug for someone who is going through a difficult time. I am a firm believer in our actions speak louder than our words. To say we are Christians and preach the scriptures while being unkind and judgmental is only going to make people who are non-Christians or those on shaky ground in their church life turn further away from The Church. We can’t judge people and throw The Book at people who are already hesitant Christians at best, who maybe were even hurt by a church at some point. We can’t, as Craig preached last week, judge a book by its cover and write them off as not Christians, or remind them of just how non-Christian they are. Instead, we have to just treat them with love and respect, even if they are a prickly cactus. We have a better chance at bringing them to God by still being kind to them. WHICH IS A HARD THING TO DO AT TIMES! But, I believe anyway, as long as we are trying to always be better, we are headed in the right direction.

 

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

Today’s Parable:  Matthew 25. 1-13

In the marriage custom of the ancient Hebrews, the betrothal was the first binding step. Generally they were arranged marriages, the parents of the bride had arranged with another family for the uniting of the bride and groom, sometimes years in advance. Brides were often fairly young by todays standards, often 14 or 16 years old. The grooms were often much older, having served apprenticeships of 7 to 12 years, or laboring to pay of debts to their own family that took years to accomplish. The betrothal was a binding contract between bride and groom, with vows and ceremony that took a legal divorce to break. After the betrothal a period of time often as much as a year took place to allow for the groom to prepare a home for his bride. This might be a new construction, or an addition on his fathers house as land was scarce and community was strong. Then came the wedding which would amount to a celebration that started at the brides house and ended in the grooms new quarters. It could last for days, when finally everyone was sent home, and the new couple were left alone.
Starting with the wedding celebration the bride and her bridesmaids would gather at her parents home and await the groom. A parade was about to start when he came and she and her maids would walk through the streets accumulating other guests in the parade and end up at the grooms for the celebration. These festivities almost always took place at night, so lamps were necessary for lighting the way and identity of those who were invited. Now the word for lamp in this passage is the same as in John 18.3 where the Roman cohort comes to arrest Jesus, the Greek word “lampas,” which is translated torch, not “luchia,” as in Matthew 5.15 which means candlestick. So these girls waiting in the brides home had more of a Tiki light torch, that held oil in a basin or cup, a wick and was on a stick to be held high in the air to light the way.

In this parable Jesus tells of ten bridesmaids, who are presumed to be fairly young girls, five were silly, five were prudent. When they gathered at the brides house, five took only their torches with the oil in them, while five more carried an extra vial of oil to replenish their torches as the night wore on. While the groom delayed, for many possible reasons, such as readying the home, party preparations, etc. the night wore on and the girls fell asleep. Verse 6 says at midnight the groom finally arrives! The girls awake, trim their wicks and head out. But the silly ones have no more oil, their torches have burned out and they are unprepared. They try to borrow oil from the prudent ones but the oil is already in the torch basin and there is no removing it now. “Go quickly and see if you can buy some,” is the cry as the parade starts. As they approach the grooms home the party enters and the door is shut. No newcomers are going to be let in now. The other girls come later to the door and beg to come in, saying “Lord, Lord, open up for us,” but the groom says “I don’t know you,” and will not open the door.

As in the Sermon on the Mount earlier in Matthew 7.21, Jesus warns, “Not everyone who says to me,’Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of the Father who is in heaven will enter. “ The context of this dissertation is the second coming of the Lord, as Jesus has wept over Jerusalem, and answered the disciples questions concerning the destruction of the temple, when they all thought wrongly about His taking over the physical kingdom of Jerusalem. When they asked, “ when will these things be, what are the signs of your coming, and of the end of the age.” Jesus response was, speaking concisely, read the scriptures, understand the prophets, and be ready. No man knows the day or the hour, so have your soul ready. Don’t think that grace is so free that you can live like there is no tomorrow, and at the last second seek forgiveness, but determine ahead of time what is most important. We are talking about eternity and it’s your soul . Religion is not the answer, good deeds are not the answer, but only faith in the finished work of Christ. He alone has provided the way to forgiveness of sins and eternal life, not Buddha, Mohamed, Hinduism, Joseph Smith, Russel, or Confucius. Just like the parable of the wheat and the tares, the silly and the prudent girls sat together waiting. Only God and the wise ones knew their eternal state, and it’s important to examine yourself, for just like the oil in the torches, salvation is not transferable, I can’t give you mine or vice-versa. Isaiah 55.1 says, “and you who have no money, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.” Salvation is free but must be received.

Karl

Watch! Pray! Pray! Awake!

Mark 13:32-37

Review:  This parable speaks to what is ahead.  No one knows the time or make-up of future events.  Not angels.  Not the Son.  Only the Father.  To illustrate this point, a story is given of an estate owner who leaves to a far country for an extended period of time.  He entrusts his servants to care for his estate and secure it.  The time of day of the master’s return is unknown.  All are warned to stay awake, to stay alert, to watch for his return.

Analysis:  As typical of Mark, this parable is the “Reader’s Digest” version of Matthew’s account (Matt. 24:36-51).  There, the days of Noah are compared to the coming of the Son of Man.  No one knew when the rain would begin.  But, begin, it did.  Similarly, no one knows when the Son of Man will return.  But, return, He will.

This is a call to faithful living, not seeking “signs” to be awakened so as not to be caught “off guard.”  We are to have a sense of anticipation for Christ’s appearing.  In the final verse (v. 37), we are reminded what was true for the generation living following Jesus’ ascension has been true for every succeeding generation, including our own.

JS Bach (BWV 70) explained this bit of scripture in German as…Watch!  Pray!  Pray!  Awake!  Be ready all the time until the LORD of glory brings this world to an end.  If this bit of music doesn’t enliven you, nothing will.  Watch!

Be Observant

Luke 21:29-33 (NIV)

“Look at the fig tree,” Jesus said. The coming of spring is announced by the greening of the trees.  Then, when the fig tree begins to show its sweet fruit it is a sign of the summer.  Winter’s barrenness is over and done.  Signs of life are visible to all.  A new season has come. In a similar way, one can anticipate the coming of the kingdom when its signs are seen.

What comes before this parable and after it, in Luke 21, is essential to understanding its meaning.  Part of what Jesus describes before this parable (see Luke 21:5-36) has to do with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple some 40 years after he spoke these words, in 70 A.D.  Another part of Jesus’ teaching, in verses 5-28, has to do with the end of history, the final judgement, and his second coming.

The destruction of Jerusalem is related to the end in that it is a type or a mirror of what is to come, in part, at the end when Jesus returns.  It is clear that God is speaking through Jesus’ prophecy.  Jesus is not only the Messiah but also a prophet.  The end of history will come and Jesus will return.

The Parable of the Fig Tree is about being observant, vigilant, and eager for Jesus to return and the Kingdom to come in all its fullness.  While no one can know the time or day nevertheless there will be kingdom signs.  Therefore, we wait, watch, and serve by following the Lord Jesus until he returns or calls us home into his Kingdom of light, life, and love.  Rest assured Jesus will come again and make all things right.

With the Disciples in every age we too can pray, “Come Lord Jesus, Come.”

 

Dress Appropriately

I love today’s parable. It is a great reminder of God’s grace and how blessed we are to be God’s chosen.

Matthew 22:1-14
The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

According to my ESV Study Bible the wedding feast is a countrywide celebration that would have lasted for several days. The “feast” is meant to represent fellowship with God and entering His kingdom.

The people the king invites reject the invitation, much like the Pharisees are rejecting Jesus. This is an extreme insult to the king as is the rejection of Jesus’ invitation an insult to God from His chosen people. When God begins to invite the others from the street this is a representation of the the Gospel being spread and salvation going to the Gentiles (most likely, the people we are descended from!).

There was something I was confused about: the man who was there with no wedding garment. First we must realize that everyone was invited, but proper wedding attire was still expected. My study bible offers a few theories on why this man wasn’t dressed:

  1. There is evidence that kings would provide proper attire for the guests and this man rejected those garments, which is insulting to the host. This would be Jesus offering to dress us in righteousness, but we reject that gift.
  2. The wedding garment may refer to a clean garment which is symbolic righteous works, or bearing good fruit. Receiving the gift of God and doing something with that gift rather than keeping it to yourself (see the talents parable for more).

Either way, the guest is lacking something essential to be in fellowship with the king.

For those of us who have been called and chosen, I think this parable is a great reminder to give thanks for the parable ends with “For many are called, but few are chosen.” This means the Gospel is spread to everyone, but not everyone will receive that call and enter the kingdom of God.

Today I give thanks to God for I am chosen. I pray you do the same.

Many Blessings,
Karissa

Living commercials…

Jesus is in the temple and begins this parable…“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, ‘I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir’; but he did not go.  Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him. (Matthew 21:28-32)

Matthew’s Jesus has just entered Jerusalem to shouts of Hosanna!!  Right out of the box, Jesus cleanses the temple, curses the fig tree, has his authority questioned and then provides today’s short but powerful parable.  The fundamental question of the parable is about who does the will of the Father.

It is a very human story about a man who owns a vineyard and his 2 sons.  The man needs work done in the vineyard and goes to the first son who at first refuses and then changes his mind and goes.  The second son politely, using ‘sir’, agrees to the request and then goes away doing nothing.  In this parable, who does the will of the Father?  This is the question Jesus asks to the chief priests and the elders of the people.

Truth be told, both sons leave a little bit to be desired.  Yes, the first son, representing tax collectors and sinners is a bit better than the second son who Jesus uses to represent the Scribes and Pharisees…but, neither are perfect.  Ideally, the one who brings real joy to the Father is the one who willingly hears and gladly obeys.

Devotional Thought:  This past Sunday many Americans sat around watching the Super Bowl for the half-time commercials.  Maybe you had your favorite.  Have you ever considered yourself to be a commercial for Christianity and the Church?  Every day…think about it, every day, the way we live our lives either attracts or turns away people to Christianity.  Every person who is either a member or has some functional role in the Church is a living advertisement…a living commercial for Christianity and the Church.  This is awe-inspiring and, quite frankly, very intimidating when placed in the context of doing the will of the Father and it led me to think about the song by Sidewalk Prophets…”Live Like That” containing the following lyrics:

Sometimes I think

What will people say of me

When I’m only just a memory

When I’m home where my soul belongs.

Was I love

When no one else would show up

Was I Jesus to the least of those

Was my worship more than just a song

I want to live like that…

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