First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @


December 2013

Isaiah 9:2-7 – Every Night Has Its Dawn

Isaiah 9:2-7

Isaiah son of Amoz is living in a time of impending doom in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  The people of these two kingdoms, God’s chosen people, have been led astray by poor leadership and idol worship.  They have forsaken God’s commandments time and time again.  Isaiah has been chosen to warn the people that they will be destroyed, taken prisoner, and led into exile.

Amidst all of this doom and gloom, Isaiah shines a light of hope at the end of the tunnel.  There will be a time of darkness for Israel and Judah.  But it won’t be an eternal darkness.  Help is on the way in the form of a child, who will be sent to be a Light in the world.  He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace.  Though Israel went through trying times, a time was soon to come that would deliver them from the evils of the world.

Just like the Israelites of ancient times, we too are to be guided by this Light.  He will lead us through the dark times of our lives.  He gives us hope and strength.  He is everlasting, the one true counselor never to lead us astray, and will bring peace to us all.  May we stay true to Him and ride out the storms of this life in hope of greater things in eternity through Jesus Christ.

Matt Blaser

Balaam and Christmas?

Numbers 24:15-17 (NLT)

Balaam?  Balaam and Christmas?  Balaam is best known by many for the story of “Balaam and his Donkey” (Numbers 22).  Balaam was a non-Israelite prophet and a man of some rank and influence among the Midianites.  Balaam was a diviner – an outsider who divines the Spirit of God in Israel. Balak is King Balak of Moab (for a little trivia – what is the genesis of “Moab”) and he was greatly afraid of the advancing Israelite population and he summons Balaam to curse the Israelites.  Israel has grown into a great nation, fulfilling the divine blessing of fertility to the ancestors in Genesis.  Balak hires Balaam to place a curse on Israel.  Balaam tells Balak what God has put into his mouth.  God had a plan and like so many times we have seen already…he uses an unlikely person.

Our passage is the 4th in a series of oracles in which Balak is greatly disappointed because Balaam tells of not only Moab’s fate but all the nations that will surround Israel.  Balaam’s advice to Balak is prophetic – he provides a divine revelation about Moab’s future in relation to Israel.  Verse 17 provides a future prediction complete with royal imagery – a figure will rise out of Israel to destroy Moab.  Some believe that this is in reference to David defeating the Moabites and many see the Messianic prophecy contained within these words.  Like the many, the coming forth of the Star and the Sceptre refers to Christ who will break through all that appears to be the strongest.

A Star was born! A Star that came into this dark world – a Star that shone in the darkness.  A Star that shines bright today.  A Star that brings hope to you and I.  The Star that will come again.

Daniel 12:1-4 – The Resurrections

Daniel 12:1-4

Verse one is both historical and prophetic.  The history and future of the world is that of conflict.  This is because the nature of mankind has remained constant.  This verse speaks of the largest conflict the world has ever seen, the last one.  Also mentioned, “…people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.”  Apparently God is keeping track or accounting for all people past, present and future.

Verses two and three point to resurrections after the conflict has ended.  The wise will choose everlasting life, other choices are to everlasting shame and contempt.  The illustration of a wise choice and stars is apt.  Stars follow strict rules or routes.  They are unerringly  consistent.  They always appear in our night sky at their allotted time of year; having done so since the beginning.  So, the wise have “followed the rules”.  They will join the stars and shine.
Finally, the forth verse is about the end.  God tells Daniel to shut up and “seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”   Today, we have many people running, driving, and flying around this planet.  Certainly, knowledge has increased compared to Daniels time.  We are closer to the end and the restructuring of the world than Daniel.
There are and will be tribulations.  God allows them.  We all know and experience a taste of them on a daily basis, great and small.  Christ experienced His share of tribulations.  He was not spared.  This message is a reminder that same God that allows tribulations also controls the size and scope of tribulations.  God has not permitted tribulations to be insurmountable.  He is there with us, every step of the way.  He knows who we are.  He knows what we’re going through.  He listens to our prayers.  He understands suffering.  He is there to help.  He has helped.  He won’t leave or forsake.
Craig Randolph

John 1:14-18 – Some Hydrazine for your Messerschmitt

John 1:14-18

So what’s Hydrazine?  N2H4 or so I’m told. It has another more common name to: rocket fuel.  In 1944 German test pilot Heini Dittmar got into the cockpit of a Messerschmitt Me 163 (say that ten times fast) full of this stuff and set the speed record at 700mph.

What does this have to do with Christians in Joliet?  Well Christians are a lot like a Messerschmitt.  We require fuel.  Without it, church becomes priority #253, prayer is boring, God’s Word is a hassle and we’d rather complain than serve.  So what’s the fuel?  It’s tucked away in verse 16.  We make a big deal about verse 14 for obvious reasons, I mean, how cool is it that God paid us a visit?  It didn’t stop at a house call though.  We haven’t just seen his glory, we’ve received His grace.  We went from being enemies of God who were objects of wrath (Ephesians 2:3) to adopted sons and daughters of God (Ephesians 1:5)

For a Christian, that’s practically rocket fuel!  Knowing what Christ has done for me makes me respond in obedience out of thankfulness. Suddenly, as I stare into what God has done for me; fellowship with God is a joy. Evangelism is natural and worship is the highlight of my week.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t always live on that mountaintop.  But when I’m not, its probably because I need to refuel.  I need to look deeply at the grace of God that saved me when I was so far from God.  Christians need to constantly go back to this Gospel fuel every bit as much as a Messerschmitt needs Hydrazine.

Raindrops of Living Water

1Pet 2:4-5

The Living Stone and a Chosen People

4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house[a] to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

If you are to take a theology/doctrinal class in seminary, you would spend quite a bit of time digesting these two verses. In part because it deals with a great concept of all believers are servants, ministers, people so important in God’s house that the whole priesthood system known in the old testament is being rewritten, reformed and reshaped. All that is rebuild on the work of Christ, love and sacrifice, words of truth and love, actions filled of grace and justice. And on that very corner stone, we see the church being built, growing and reaching out.

Did you ever play in the rain? Try to connect raindrops on a window? If you did, you know that at some point, you get a raindrop that start moving on its own, faster and faster, connecting with other smaller raindrops, and growing. That is the imagine of this spiritual house, where people are build up through Christ, where ones learn to be a living stone, with a story to tell. This is the imagine of the church where the walls between priests and laity are gone, where all of us are a holy priesthood, worshiping and serving side by side.

As we get closer to Christmas, I want to say thank you to all of you for being a holy servants in the house of God. We could not do all the things we do around here if it were not for you, your gifts and willingness to serve.

Be Blessed,

Bo M.

All are invited…

Revelation 22:16-17, 20-21 (NLT)

Prophecy…end times…Christ’s second coming…  It was in my sermon last Sunday – many want to know…need to know…are obsessed with knowing.  If you have read through the Book of Revelation and had a strong desire to have all of the imagery explained in infinite detail, there are many standing in line with you.

What is the main idea of the Bible?  What is the main focus?  Well, it’s not just an idea, it’s a person.  These 2 verses in Ch. 22 sum up the entire Bible…from Genesis to Revelation, Jesus is THE key and all are invited to “Come”.  Those who hear are encouraged to respond and to extend the invitation to others.  The wonderful promise is given that all those who are thirsty may come and will receive God’s free gift.

What is important is the invitation – “the bright morning star” speaks to us, “Come”…to be faithful witnesses to him, because he is coming soon.  John 1:14, read yesterday, talks about grace and truth…this is Jesus Christ.  And we see that the very last words of Scripture to be about grace and truth.  “Amen, Come, Lord Jesus!  May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s holy people.”

1 John 2:8-9 – Not A Christmas Passage

1 John 2:8-9

So far I’ve appreciated most of the passages in our Advent study.  I appreciate this one as well, even though its a stretch to call it a Christmas passage.  Its fair to say that not every mention of “light” in the Bible is a shadow of the incarnation. That said, this is a great introduction to our next study through 1st John.

The book of first John, Jesus and Paul all constantly emphasize one thing that we very often forget; Love for other believers. In fact, John says if you hate other believers (think a hostile-ish aversion rather than rage) then you’re walking in darkness.  Its not enough to just co-exist with other believers, God commands love.  Real, difficult, messy 1st Corinthians 13 love.  The kind of love that says I’ll be patient and kind even when you’re being absurd.  I’ll even confront you when you’re wrong because I love you to much to see you do anything but God’s best.  I will always persevere for you and rejoice in your success instead of being jealous. That’s love.

So then, do you love the other believers in our church?  Do you love the believers at the churches up the road?  Let’s be honest, there’s some you probably just tolerate.  I’m right there with you, but lets not pretend its okay.  I might be going out on a limb here, but I’m willing to bet that if we had that kind of love.. the kind of love that John would say proves that we’re “in the light”, our church services would be so full you might not be able to get through the front door.  Take a minute, confess your bitterness, apathy, grudges, gossip and bad attitudes towards other believers.  Commit to love even if you vehemently disagree.

John 1:1-14 – And Dwelt Among Us

John 1:1-14
This is one of those passages that are like drinking from a fire hydrant.  In no small way these verses are one of the lynch-pins of the Christian faith.  If these verses are true, then Jesus is God.  If that’s true, then suddenly the Jehovah’s witnesses and Muslims have no ground to stand on when they say that Jesus is “a god” or the Muslim says that He was simply another prophet.  These verses change everything.

At first its not entirely clear who this Word fellow is.  We see that He is God and we see that He’s light but its a little vague at first. Then we move on to verse six and the picture begins to clear.  This Word (is also light) is testified to by John and not only that, but took on flesh and came to earth!  We see later in the book that this could only be one person; Jesus.  The Christ; 100% God – 100% Man.

Have you ever thought exactly what that must have been like?  Jesus experienced the wonder of a perfect heaven, where He was rightly worshiped and ruled justly.  Instead of continuing there he took on a human body. A restrictive, mortal, disease-prone body.  Why?  To be born a baby in a smelly manger in the little town of Bethlehem to a blue collar unmarried teenager. He came to walk among human beings, who for most of his life tried to kill Him, misunderstood him, persecuted Him and eventually bloodied Him and nailed Him to a cross. Its a dark story, but the most wonderful I’ve ever heard.  By faith in the sacrifice of Christ we stand blameless before God.

This morning, let’s thank God that “the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us”

John 6:35 – The Bread Of Life

John 6:35

Do you have a favorite name for Jesus, our Messiah?  He is identified in so many ways:  Immanuel (“God-with-us”, one of my personal favorites, for sure), Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace, and, another all-time favorite for so many believers throughout the centuries, “The Good Shepherd” (John 10:11).  Envisioning our Savior as the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23 brings us so much comfort, both for our daily well-being (“….Your rod and your staff they comfort me….), as well as for the life to come (“….and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”)

This feeling of comfort brings us to today’s text:  “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’” (John 6:35) Jesus does not say that he will give us bread from heaven, but he says, “I AM the bread of life.  Our Lord and Savior as bread—what a comfort!   Because isn’t bread one of the most satisfying, most sensory, of all comfort foods?  One of my strongest, loveliest memories growing up is those Saturdays when my mom would bake bread for the family.  The house would be filled with the aroma of those loaves baking, and the minute they came out of the oven, we would beg for the crusts, cut nice and thick, then slathered with lots of butter, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and finally enjoyed in all the contrasts:  the crunch of the crust, the softness of the center, and the sweetness of the cinnamon-sugar syrup dripping down our chins!!  What a feast for all the senses!

In other words, Jesus as the bread of life brings us comfort and joy, even as it makes our faith so very real, so tangible, so practical for daily living.   It means that we must go to Him every day, in Scripture and in prayer (“Give us this day our DAILY BREAD…”), in order to nourish our soul and our mind, to draw closer to Him, even as we purpose to live in accordance to His will, to be “Jesus with skin on” to everyone we meet along the way.  In so doing, we also purpose to draw others to him.  (Like those days when I would bake bread for my family, and several children from the neighborhood, knowing that Tuesday was bread-baking day at our house, would appear at the patio door, politely hoping for a slice or two of the still-warm loaves.)

May this Advent be a time to feast, not on the commercialism with which we are bombarded everywhere we go, but on Jesus, “…the bread of God that comes down out of heaven and gives life to the world.”

Emma Sticklen

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