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First Pres Joliet

A Daily Devotional from our faith community @ firstpresjoliet.org

Month

February 2014

2014-02-27 12.12.17

 Hebrews 11:8-39

Let me tell you a by faith story:

Sometime back, a couple of years back, the stories of a ministry from a country far far away made all the way to Joliet. I am not sure of how the whole thing started, If Clearance’s trip to Africa had anything to do with it or not, or if the three girls from Angel House being sponsored by 1st Pres was the way God was stretching our faith or not. But what I know is that one day the opportunity to go and be part of what God was doing in Tanzania came up, and a small group of folks responded by saying: I am not sure of what this means, but I am ready to go.

By faith, that group, with the support of so many of you, start praying, planning and trying do discern what it means to step out of their comfort zone and go. By faith, meeting after meting, things became clearer and at the same time confusing, a sense of why and where this is going to lead reflected each person’s faith.

And shortly after the small team reached Tanzania, touched ground, received the very first hug, or started working on that pile of bricks that soon start looking like a kitchen, or the many smiles as the kids got their toothbrushes, dresses and shorts, that idea of by faith became real.

Here is what by faith means, it means looking deep inside of you, reaching all the way to that place where God is speaking to you, and where what you know, the securities of now and being on control start to fade, and you start questioning yourself about what is important. By faith means letting that voice take control, even when it does not make sense, even when the person next to you does not understands you and you know there is something that you have to do. By faith means knowing that the unknown is a great thing, it means of accepting a new reality of being ready and not knowing what you are ready for; by faith goes beyond one person, or a small group it goes to a place where the people’s lives will forever be changed, ministries reshaped and transformed, churches empowered to reach out and do more.

I wish I could tell you where and how this story ends, but I do not know. All that I know is that by faith, Angel House, 1st Pres those 7 dreamers will forever be changed, and whatever God is calling us to do next will be something that one could read in Acts (chapter 1,778,876) in the big book of life.

So today, listen to that voice that tugs your heart, go to the place where what you know it’s not what you accept for status quo, go to the place where you can look at the person sitting next to you on Sunday morning and call them out to join this by faith thing.

“39-40 Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.”

Be blessed,

Bo M.

Today’s Passage:  Hebrews 11:1-7 (CEB)

kite-flying

Spring is coming…well, at least the calendar says so!!  With this year’s winter and today’s passage, I think about kite flying…remember the song?  “Let’s go fly a kite…Up to the highest height!…Let’s go fly a kite and send it soaring…Up through the atmosphere…Up where the air is clear…”

Remember?  You would have hundreds of yards of string…let a little out and start running…letting more string out and soon, sure enough, your kite would be airborne. Flying a kite and trying to let all the string out – without getting caught in the overhead lines or trees…soon, your kite would be so high it was hard to see.

Imagine someone walking up to you and asking what you were doing with a taut string but they couldn’t see your kite.  What would you say to them?  You can’t see your kite but periodically you feel the tug…

Faith is like flying a kite…even though many label this passage as a definition of ‘faith’, I think the point is about faith lived out as evidenced by the many people noted in the chapter beginning with Abel, Enoch and Noah. Our author establishes an opening statement about authentic faith…faith that although directed to future realities, also makes the future present.  Faith that is authentic recognizes the reality of the unseen and allows itself to be governed by that reality. Remember Paul’s words in 2 Cor “we live by faith, not by sight”?  In today’s passage we see don’t have a technical definition of faith but a description of what authentic faith does and how God provides evidence in the practice of faith that what he promises will eventually be reality.

What about that someone who sees you “flying your kite”?  Let your faith soar…like “your fist holding tight to the string of your kite” and although often appearing foolish to the secular world, cling to Jesus and keep looking up… and every once in a while realize… Wow!!  I feel a tug!

Hebrews 10:19-39 Hold on to Hope In Christ; He is Faithful

Hebrews 10:19-39 NIV – A Call to Persevere in Faith – Bible Gateway

10:23 “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Give thanks to God, for we can enter the presence of the Most High through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  In Christ Jesus we are forgiven and invited into the family of God as one of God’s beloved children whom the Lord deeply loves and forgives through His extraordinary grace. 

Given God’s gracious love for us in Christ we are instructed, in Hebrews 10:23, to hold to our hope in Jesus.  We are asked to encourage and to help one another to live the love of Christ and to do what is good.  We are not to neglect meeting together with each other, that is assembling as followers of Christ in worship and fellowship and support.  For when we meet together we are encouraging each other to hold to our faith and practice in Christ.  Jesus is faithful and we are to remain faithful as well to him.

This chapter concludes warning the Christians to refrain from sinning after they have received the truth of Christ.  The sin here is giving up ones faith in Jesus perhaps because of the persecution they have experienced and may undergo again.  Instead, they are encouraged to persevere and remain faithful.  God will punish those who give up their faith in Jesus but he will reward those who persevere.

In every time, God’s people face adversity and troubles.  In some eras Christians pay a heavy price for following Jesus, giving their lives as martyrs.  And today there are many places in which Christians suffer greatly, even unto death.  Pray this day for those who suffer much for following Jesus.  Pray for Christians who are overwhelmed with the troubles and brokenness of  life, so that they will not despair and lose hope.  May our hope in Jesus remain strong this day and always.

Hebrews 10:1-18 – Christ’s Sacrifice Once For All

Today’s passage, Hebrews 10:1-18, brings us to the climax of the first major theme in this powerful book:  THE SUPERIORITY OF CHRIST.  We have clearly seen how Christ is greater than the angels, greater than Moses, and greater than the Old Testament priesthood.  Now we are told in no uncertain terms that Christ’s sacrifice of his own blood is infinitely superior to the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament.  In fact, Christ himself said that God did not want and was never pleased with sacrifices burned on the alter!  Instead, by sacrificing himself, He canceled that first covenant.  And in so doing, we are to be “made holy” by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (verse 10), and this sacrifice is “…good for all time.”(verse 12)

What an awesome comfort it is to know that, imperfect as we are, through Christ, in God’s eyes we are now perfect, because God “…will remember our sins no more.”  And yet, I have to wonder about the phrase, “made holy”.  To be “made holy indicates a process, a progression, of growing in faith on a daily basis, in order to be set apart for God’s special purpose.  That’s a scary reality!  Has anyone not experienced how growing in faith can be excruciatingly painful? Don’t we often find ourselves crying out, “enough already”?   And yet, what keeps us going and growing is the sure knowledge that every circumstance, every daily experience, does serve God’s purpose for us.  Moreover, we can best discover that purpose by searching the Scriptures every day (as we are doing in this blog), and by deliberately applying God’s Word to all areas of our lives.   May God’s word guide us as we seek to know His unique intention for us this day.

Emma Sticklen

Hebrews 9:23-28 – One Atonement

Sacrifice_of_the_Old_Covenant_Rubens

Hebrews 9:23-28

I’m not a big one for kudos, but as I’ve been shooting a little promo video for our daily devotional, it has become increasingly clear to me that God uses His word.  Whether its the lofty thoughts of Calvin and Spurgeon or a few Presbyterians hanging out online in Joliet, God uses His word.  Hopefully, as you reflect on your consistency in His word, you can see how God has worked in your life.

Today’s passage is just swimming in Old Testament law and custom.  In the author of Hebrew’s train of thought, it is becoming increasingly clear that Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament.  He’s the perfect high priest, sacrifice and mediator.  With Christ the whole Old Testament comes together in perfect harmony. In this particular section, the author is describing all these Old Testament pillars as mere copies or images of the glorious truth.  The holy of holies; an image of heaven itself.  Animal sacrifices; an image of the sacrifice of Christ.  Instead of animal sacrifices having to be made over and over, Christ is the perfect sacrifice who needed only to die once.  For the believer, this truth brings so much hope.  Our sins are paid: past, present and future.  We are not just innocent for our past sins, we are innocent for our future sins through the one atonement of the perfect sacrifice.  Our great sin is paid for by a great Savior.

That One Tent!

Hebrews 9:1-22 

I love Indiana Jones!!! There is no doubt in my mind that his adventures have made an impression on my very theological view of some of the artifacts we see in the Bible. And today we are talking about the Tabernacle and the ARK!!! Now that’s just cool.

Think with me about the meaning of these two artifacts for those Hebrews that were walking through the desert. The tabernacle and the ark were the very presence of God, that very essence of life present with them at that very time and space. It is a notion that it’s just mind-blowing for me. Can you imagine seeking audience with God, and knowing exactly where to find him? How amazing that one tent was! That one tent was the very center of Israel’s life, it was the place that was first taken down before leaving to a new location, the first thing to go up when they reach that destination. It was the place where people met, worship and talked about life and the day-to-day business. All that in the very presence of God, right there in close proximity. And it was awesome! But then, some of the people where scared of hearing God’s voice, so they asked Moses to speak to God for them, and later on once the ark is moved in the Temple in Jerusalem, we find out that the people caught up in the formalities of the temple life, offerings and so on, and very little talk or understanding of what the ark meant.

And this is the point where, I am humbled by the realization that I am no different that those hebrew that walked, lived and build their lives around that one tent, around that ark. I am no different that any of those that found that living my life in the presence of God can be scary,  can stressful and demanding. I am no different that those that said: let me have an understanding of who God is, you tell me about it, i will listen to it, i might even come and perform my duties but please keep God locked up away from me.

I am humbled that as human beings we take God in his very fullness and make it conform to our level of comfort and understanding.

May today be one of those days when we live our lives in that one tent, close to, in the presence of God, and may we see our lives changed by his very presence.

Be blessed,

Bo M.

“Better…”

Today’s Passage:  Hebrews 8:1-13 (CEB)

Today we find two main thoughts – verses 1-6 and 7-13.  In the first part we bring to a crescendo good vs. better.  The old temple was good but the new, real one is better.  The old priests were good but the new one is better.  The old covenant was good but the new one is better.  Our writer has meticulously used 7 preceding chapters to encourage us to look back to those really early days and ask ourselves where we stand in our devotion to Jesus…or, said maybe differently: is Jesus as central to our lives as the writer of Hebrews wanted him to be for his readers.  Cyndi got me thinking about this in her comment the other day when she challenged herself and me about real following.  If Jesus is really better than the temple, the priesthood…everything…how much more is he better than the things which create distractions?

And so we move into the second half of today’s passage.  I don’t know about you but I hear our author having what might equate to x-ray vision – being able to “see” or plumb the depths of humanity and put into words that no one is able to meet the terms of the contract so to speak.  Every day each one of us is able to look into our own individual mirrors and know at the deepest level that we can’t live up to our end of any covenant that requires obedience to laws or rules.  And it is here where our author adapts words of Jeremiah when he writes about the new covenant – one that replaces the old one made with Moses.  This new covenant is different…it is an inward reality…you won’t find it written on the books for it is now “written” on the minds and hearts of the people.  No one has to think of approaching an unknown God, rather “they will all know me”.  These are words of divine kindness and grace…mercy and forgiveness.  This is how we know the real meaning of “better”.  This is the promise.

Throughout the human race are the realities of sin, guilt, broken promises…but through our author, we know that this is clearly not the last word – we know it as old news, outdated, obsolete.  What we do know is “better” – the word our author of Hebrews uses more than in any other book in the New Testament…better…the new covenant in Jesus! Better!!

Hebrews 7:1-28; A Better Hope

Hebrews 7:1-28 NIV – Melchizedek the Priest – This – Bible Gateway

Jesus is the “Better Hope” a priest who “lives forever,” who is “able to save completely” for “he always lives to intercede for those who come to God through him.”

This passage uses Old Testament imagery and concepts to describe how incredible and superior Jesus is as the guarantor of the New Covenant.  Jesus is far beyond any priest in the Old Testament.  We read of the Law and Levitical Priesthood going back to the Exodus and Aaron.  This passage takes us all the way back to Abraham the one through whom God promised to bless all the nations (Genesis 12:1-3).  Genesis 12:1-3 NIV – The Call of Abram – The LORD had said – Bible Gateway  Faithful people in Jesus’ time would see themselves as descendants and children of Abraham.

But we also read of a greater priest in the Old Testament, Melchizedek, one so great that Abraham “gave him a tithe of everything.”   See Genesis 14:17-20 Genesis 14:17-20 NIV – After Abram returned from defeating – Bible Gateway  Melchizedek, “without father or mother” is greater than even Abraham.  “It is as though he comes to to Abraham through the veil of eternity, only to leave through it again” (Asbury Commentary).

Nevertheless, Jesus surpasses Melchizedek as the greatest priest forever.  Unlike priests who offered sacrifices for peoples sins over and over and over again, Jesus offered one and only one sacrifice for all of the sins of the world.  Jesus offered the most remarkable sacrifice, himself.

Jesus who gave himself, willing died for us, to make intercession with God for any sin we could possibly commit is the Better Hope, the BEST HOPE of ALL.  This day rest in the forgiveness of Jesus.  Trust such a loving Savior to take away all of your sins.  Place your deepest Hope in Him.  Know you are loved and treasured by Jesus today.

Hebrews 6:13-20 – God Doesn’t Lie

My senior year of high school I watched Detroit Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace constantly exclaim a single truth: “ball don’t lie!” He reminded us of the fact every time an opponent went to the free throw line and missed. His supposition was that an opponants missed foul shot suggested the original foul called was wrong. Truth be told he was often wrong. He got called for a lot of fouls and rightly so. Sometimes the ball did lie.

The author of Hebrews paints a much different picture of God. God doesn’t lie. When God makes a promise He keeps it, Old Testament or New. This is comforting news for the believer; we don’t need to wonder about God’s promises. We know beyond doubt that God keeps His word. If He says we are forgiven then we are forgiven indeed. If He says He will be with us, then we need not doubt, He is with us. God keeps His word. Rejoice this morning in a God who is faithful, a God who keeps His promises.

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